KIDAPAWAN CITY – New People’s Army rebels have owned up Sunday to the killing of a councilman in Magpet town in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines.
Isabel Santiago, a spokeswoman for the rebel group, said Antonio Takinan was killed as a punishment for his alleged involvement in the anti-insurgency campaign and human rights violations in the province.
Takinan was shot dead on April 4 while travelling on a motorcycle with his brother-in-law Robilio Tambunan, who was wounded in the attack and escaped assassination.
Santiago accused Takinan to being an intelligence agent for the military and behind forced recruitment of tribesmen to fight the NPA as government militias. She said the rebel group had ordered Takinan’s death.
“The standing order imposed by the NPA against Takinan stemmed from his active intelligence gathering activities, forced recruitment of indigenous peoples for the paramilitary CAFGU Bagani fighters, and assisting the military in its combat operations that resulted in grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations.”
“Takinan’s intel activities led to the indiscriminate mortar shelling and aerial bombardment of Lumad communities on December 21 last year by the 39th Infantry Battalion. Recently, Takinan aided the 19th Infantry Battalion which had been terrorizing Lumad communities of Manobo for several weeks now, forcing civilians to either surrender or admit to being supporters of the NPA,” she added.
Santiago also said that Takinan allegedly extorted money from other tribesmen who are locked in bitter land disputes in the town. “Masses also reported that Takinan took advantage of land disputes in the hinterlands of Magpet by extorting from the Lumad,” she said.
Takinan’s slaying came barely a week after rebel forces clashed with soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion and killing three infantrymen in nearby Digos City in retaliation to military operations dubbed as “Oplan Kapayapaan” in the towns of Arakan, Antipas, Roxas and Magpet and Makilala in North Cotabato, and the towns of Santa Cruz and Bansalan, including Digos City in Davao del Sur province.
Santiago said the military operations in those areas have targeted innocent civilians and tribesmen. “It is aimed at targeting civilian Lumad and peasants, coercing them to swear in as combatants and surrendered persons,” she said, adding, in response to the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, the NPA has been ordered to defend the masses and punish legitimate military targets, including armed and active intelligence agents hiding under the badge of civilian bureaucracy.”
There was no immediate statement from the military on Santiago’s allegations, but the NPA has been waging decades of deadly campaign in the country for the establishment of its own Maoist government, and even demanded from President Rodrigo Duterte a coalition government as one of its preconditions for the revival of the stalled peace talks last year. (Mindanao Examiner)