More Negros bloodshed: Gunmen kill 3 in a day
ILOILO CITY—Unidentified gunmen killed a school principal and his sister, and a village chief after barging into their homes in two separate attacks on Thursday in the Negros Oriental city of Guihulngan where a lawyer marked for death by an anticommunist group was killed barely 48 hours earlier, police said.
Another group of armed men later ransacked a gasoline station owned by the family of a cousin of the slain lawyer, Anthony Trinidad. They were looking for Trinidad’s brother-in-law, Carlos Villarmente.
Trinidad, Villarmente and his wife, Guihulngan Councilor Jessica Trinidad-Villarmente, the lawyer’s elder sister, were among 15 people tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) in a flyer distributed earlier by a group calling itself Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak).
Kagubak has vowed that those it identified as NPA supporters “would not make it to 2018.”
Trinidad’s brother, Jesus Manuel, 25, barangay chair of Magsaysay, was on another similar list.
A report by the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office said that about 12:55 a.m. on Thursday, armed men forced their way into the house of siblings Arthur and Ardale Bayawa in Barangay Hibaiyo and shot them repeatedly.
Arthur, 55, was principal of Guihulngan National High School – Special Science Class. Ardale, 49, was chief of the Curriculum Implementation Division of the Department of Education city division. Both were single.
About 45 minutes later, armed men gunned down Romeo Alipan, 64, barangay chair of Buenavista, inside his house in Barangay Poblacion.
Police Lt. Col. Bonifacio Tecson, Guihulngan police chief, said Thursday’s attacks might have been carried out by the same group of people “because of the manner of killing.”
Tecson said in a phone interview that the attack on the two siblings might also be connected to the killing of Trinidad, citing still unverified information that they were the lawyer’s clients. He did not give details.
Around 1:30 a.m., seven men armed with rifles forcibly entered a Petron gas station, searching for Villarmente, the manager, police reported.
When they did not find him, they took some P50,000 in cash sales, a laptop computer, a television set and a security camera monitor. They painted the slogan “Mabuhay ang NPA” (Long Live the NPA) on a wall before escaping in three vans.
74 slain since 2017
On Tuesday, motorcycle-driving gunmen shot and killed Trinidad while he was driving his car. His wife was wounded.
The Defend Negros #Stop the Killings network said it had recorded 74 victims of extrajudicial killings on Negros Island since January 2017, including Trinidad and the others.
President Duterte has ordered a thorough investigation of Trinidad’s killing, according to his spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“We will prosecute these killers and ensure that they will face the appropriate punishment for such criminal act as we commit to deliver justice not just for the family of attorney Trinidad but for the entire Filipino community,” Panelo said.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos City, which includes Guihulngan, denounced the killings in a Facebook post.
“What’s happening to our island? When will these killings ever stop?” Alminaza said.
“I’m asking our priests and lay leaders serving in the area to meet and discern together what collective action to take in response to this worsening situation so we don’t give in to despair, complacency and numbness and put an end to this!”
In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also condemned Trinidad’s killing, saying it was “a manifestation of the culture of impunity that the administration has been perpetuating.”
The attacks and threats against lawyers showed that the “dangers of being arbitrarily, maliciously and baselessly Red-tagged are neither imaginary nor contrived, but constitute real threats to life, liberty and security,” said NUPL secretary general Efraim Cortez and spokesperson Josalee Deinla.
Similar to farmers’ slay
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate noted that the way Thursday’s killings were carried out was “very similar” to police operations last March that ended in the deaths of 14 farmers in Canlaon City, and Majuyod and Santa Catalina towns, all in Negros Oriental.
The Philippine National Police said those killed were NPA supporters who fought the policemen, a claim refuted by relatives of the victims who insisted that they were executed inside their houses.
In a letter to PNP chief Oscar Albayalde, the slain lawyer’s younger sister, Andrea Trinidad, said allegations linking her siblings to the communist rebels were “farthest from the truth.”
“A simple background investigation in our hometown would have proven that all us are productive members of the society, contributing to the general welfare of our community,” she said. “It is heartbreaking to say the least that this tragedy has struck our family and three other families in just a few days.”
She appealed for police protection for her family, an expeditious investigation of her brother’s killing and the list of alleged NPA supporters, the removal of her siblings from that list, and the restoration of peace and order in Guihulngan. —WITH REPORTS FROM CARLA P. GOMEZ, JULIE M. AURELIO AND JEROME ANING
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