Rebel group denies member’s link to rural doctor’s slay
DAVAO CITY – A revolutionary armed group has denied allegations that one of its members, who was killed in a military and police operation, was a suspect in the murder of volunteer doctor Dreyfuss Perlas in Lanao del Norte.
Harold Fernandez, head of the National Operational Command of the Revolutionary Proletariat Army of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa- Mindanao (RPM-M), said in a statement that Ka Ruben or Agapito Tamparong, as identified by the military, was not a gun for hire.
Tamparong was killed by government forces after he reportedly resisted arrest on March 4 in the town of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte.
Authorities said Tamparong was one of the suspects in the killing of Perlas, a volunteer doctor who enlisted with the Department of Health’s Doctors to the Barrio Program.
Fernandez said Tamparong, who was allegedly unarmed during that time, decided to evade the approaching composite team of soldiers and police.
“His attempt to escape had been impossible considering the number of the enemies with high caliber arms. He was alone and only armed with a cellular phone because he was in the place to visit a family friend and the masses,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said that judging from the number of gunshot wounds Tamparong sustained in the shooting, the authorities’ intent was not to arrest but to neutralize him.
The military earlier said that Tamparong lobbed a grenade towards the advancing government forces.
“Comrade Ruben had never been in any gun-for-hire and other un-revolutionary activities. He was an active political and military cadre of the RPA since it split way from the CPP-NPA-NDFP in the early 90’s,” Fernandez said.
The RPMM broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed group, New People’s Army and its political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, following serious debates on ideological, political and military issues in waging the revolution.
Fernandez added that Tamparong had a reputation for enforcing strict rules against crime in their area of operations.
“In fact, he was one of those vocal in supporting the current Duterte government’s campaign on illegal drugs but not the “Tokhang” method. He strongly believed that the widespread drug problem in the country is a symptom of the intensive poverty and social inequity affecting the vast majority of our people,” Fernandez said. Oplan Tokhang was the massive door-to-door campaign of the Philippine National Police to persuade known drug users and pushers in the communities to surrender and undergo rehabilitation.
Fernandez shared that Tamparong was active in performing political activities in peasant and rural communities before he died.
The RPMM-RPA said the arrest and the subsequent attack on Tamparang violated the ceasefire agreement inked by the rebel group with the Philippine government on Oct. 28, 2005 during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Since the RPMM signed the ceasefire agreement with the Philippine government under the Arroyo administration, RPA comrades hold on to this agreement and tried to stay the course of peaceful settlement of the armed conflicts as a result of the extreme poverty of the people. The murder of Comrade Ruben is a violation to this agreement,” Fernandez said. SFM/rga
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