NPA admits killing North Cotabato chief security for role in Ateneo student, Tentorio slays
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato – The New People’s Army (NPA) has owned up to Sunday’s killing of the chief security of the North Cotabato provincial government, saying he was killed for his involvement in various killings and atrocities – including that of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio.
In a statement, Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the NPA’s Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command, said Bernabe “Bantito” Abanilla had ties with the military-backed Bagani group headed by Datu Mansandong and Commander Iring, which has been targeting lumad communities.
The NPA claimed he was also involved in the 2002 death of Ateneo student Benjaline Hernandez and the 2011 murder of Tentorio.
Hernandez was killed during an alleged encounter with the NPA, according to the military but witnesses proved otherwise.
Tentorio, on the other hand, was said to have been murdered because of his work with the indigenous people of Arakan, North Cotabato.
Santiago said despite the allegations against him, the NPA gave Abanilla a chance to reform after a plot to kill him in 2001 for his alleged involvement in lumad killings failed.
“After the killings, Abanilla swore before the revolutionary movement that he will cut his connection with Commander Iring and will not do any action against the revolutionary forces and the residents in Arakan,” she said.
However, Santiago said Abanilla failed to keep his end of the bargain and “has been attacking revolutionary mass organizations from 2005 until he was killed.” She said Abanilla was behind Hernandez and Tentorio’s killings as well.
Abanilla was on his way to the church in Arakan town, along with his bodyguard Jerson Semillano, when attacked by three gunmen on Sunday.
Churchgoers and villagers rushed them to the nearby Antipas Medical Specialist Center but they soon died of multiple gunshot wounds in the head and body.
In linking Abanilla to the Tentorio murder, Santiago said he connived with Commander Iring to murder the missionary priest.
Santiago said he worked with North Cotabato 2nd district Representative Nancy Catamco as well in arming the indigenous people of Arakan against the NPA.
Catamco denied the charge in a separate statement, saying she and Abanilla had different views and aspirations for the lumad.
She said she wanted to empower the lumad to stand for their ancestral domain and rights to self-determination but not arming them to fight the insurgents.
Catamco also said Abanilla might have supported her in the 2010 elections but they parted ways when the latter supported another candidate in 2013.
She also said the NPA’s statement alleging Abanilla’s involvement in the Tentorio killing should be looked into as this could help in the resolution of the case.
As this developed, the Diocese of Kidapawan condemned Abanilla’s killing and called it a spectacular display of inhuman violence.
“The Church also condemns this as a violation of the right to worship; right to life of unarmed men; rights to pray undisturbed,” Monsignor Carlito Garcia, the diocesan administrator, said.
Garcia said that the perpetrators belong to a well-organized and well-trained group “and if they claim that they implemented revolutionary justice, they should realize that most decent people cannot condone this, maybe only fanatics or hard criminals can.”
He urged the people not to support the perpetrators of such crime and to unite to stop all sorts of extra-judicial killings.
Garcia also rallied the people of North Cotabato to work together to put a stop to “the vicious cycle of violence and to unite in order to uproot the root causes of conflict” even as he “prayed for the victims and their respective families and for all who were traumatized by this crime or other similar crimes.”
“Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called the children of God,” he concluded, quoting a passage from the Gospel of Matthew. SFM