9 IP villagers in Panay, tagged as Reds, killed in 1-day police, military operation
ILOILO CITY—Nine residents of remote villages populated by Panay Island’s largest indigenous people’s group were killed in a joint police and military operation on Wednesday (Dec. 30).
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philipine National Police (PNP) alleged that those killed were New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who fought back when operatives served search warrants for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.
Some relatives said those killed did not resist arrest and the firearms and explosives found in their homes had been “planted.”
At least 17 others residents of villages in Tapaz town, Capiz province and neighboring Calinog town, Iloilo province were arrested, Col. Gervacio Balmaceda, chief of the CIDG in Western Visayas, said at a press conference.
“The nine died when they fired at positions of law enforcement officers,” Balmaceda said.
All those who died were from the villages of Tapaz, Lahug, Nawayan, Tacayan, Aglinab, Acuna and Daan Sur. At least 10 villagers were arrested in Tapaz and seven in Calinog.
Balmaceda said one police officer was injured after slipping, citing initial reports.
He said the coordinated operation involved 28 search warrants “based on information from civilians about the presence of personalities with high powered firearms and explosives.”
“This is a regular law enforcement activity against loose firearms,” he said.
The operation that started at dawn and was ongoing as of early afternoon was led by the CIDG and supported by the provincial police offices of Capiz and Iloilo and soldiers of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
The government forces supposedly seized assorted firearms and explosives in the houses of those killed and arrested.
The search warrants included those issued by branches of the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Balmaceda did not release the names of the dead and arrested but reports by radio stations on the identities of some of those killed and arrested included former or current village officials and leaders of the group Tumanduk nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sang Duta kag Kabuhi (Tumanduk).
Tumanduk is an alliance of 17 indigenous peoples communities in Tapaz and Jamindan towns in Capiz and Calinog in Iloilo province.
In an interview with radio station Bombo Radyo in Roxas City, Capiz, village council member Ludovisa Catamin, of Barangay Roosevelt, alleged that the policemen and soldiers entered their house and arrested her son Rolen based on a search warrant.
She said they were ordered out while a policeman entered their house and went out saying firearms had been found and seized.
Catamin denied that the firearms were theirs.
The partylist group Bayan Muna decried the killing and arrest of members of the indigenous people’s group.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the operation was “the same modus operandi used by state forces in Negros Oriental” on Dec. 27, 2018 when now PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas was Central Visayas PNP chief.
Zarate said those killed and arrested in Tapaz and Calinog were known leaders and members of the community who were red-tagged and accused of being communist rebel supporters.
He identified one of those those killed as Roy Giganto, former Tumanduk chair while the organization’s current chair, Marevic Aguirre, was reported missing.
Six persons were killed in December 2018 and another 14 in March 2019 in coordinated police and military operations in Negros Oriental.
The policemen and soldiers at the time also served search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and claimed that those who died fought back or nanlaban.
Edited by TSB
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