Army fears tribal war after Davao datu slain
TAGUM CITY—Guerrillas killed an anticommunist tribal leader in Panabo City, Davao del Norte province, on Wednesday, raising fears that the victim’s family would launch a tribal war in retaliation.
Datu Ruben Labawan, 49, was riding a motorcycle driven by one Romeo Tanio Escosar, 49, when they were attacked by five gunmen on three motorcycles on the national highway in the village of Gredu in Panabo, said Chief Insp. Andrea dela Cerna, spokesperson of the Southern Mindanao police office.
Labawan and Escosar were taken to a hospital where they were declared dead. Labawan had multiple gunshot wounds while Escosar was shot once.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the military feared the family of Labawan would retaliate and wage a “pangayaw,” or tribal war.
The slain tribal chieftain headed the Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development, a staunch anticommunist ally of the military.
The New People’s Army has yet to issue a statement on the killing of Labawan, who had survived previous attacks by communist guerrillas.
In August 2010, guerrillas ambushed Labawan, who was with a group of soldiers on their way to Paquibato district for a dialogue with tribal communities over an agricultural project for indigenous peoples in remote areas of Davao City and Davao del Norte.
Two soldiers were killed in that attack but Labawan was unhurt.
Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, head of the Army’s 1003rd Infantry Brigade, condemned Wednesday’s attack on Labawan, calling it “treacherous.”
Batchar said Nepomuceno expressed fears of a pangayaw over Labawan’s killing.
Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division chief, expressed grief over the killing of Labawan, who had been actively helping the military in efforts to uplift the living conditions of indigenous peoples.
The head of the Southern Mindanao police has ordered the creation of a special investigation task group to solve the killing. Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao
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