Rebels own up killing of tribal leader accused in murder of Italian missioner

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY – Communist rebels owned up to the killing of a tribal leader they accused as behind the murder of an Italian missionary in southern Philippines.

Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said rebel forces killed Ruben Labawan, a leader of the notorious militia group called Alamara, in Panabo City on July 6. He said Labawan was also working for the Philippine military and behind numerous killings of indigenous people and civilians suspected of supporting or aiding the NPA.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops, with Labawan's Alamara and other paramilitaries at their heels, have committed the most fanatic and barbaric acts of war crimes around the region, such as the cold-murder of Fr. Fausto Tentorio,” Sanchez said.

Tentorio, who was accused by the Alamara group as a sympathizer of the NPA, was shot outside his convent in Arakan town in North Cotabato province in October 17, 2011.

“The New People's Army in Southern Mindanao and the Lumad and peasant masses in the region commend the NPA-1ST Pulang Bagani Battalion in successfully carrying out the standing order of the People’s Revolutionary Court in dispensing justice against Ruben Labawan last June 6 in Panabo City.”

“Labawan was guilty of blood debts and thereby meted with the death penalty for serious crimes against the people, especially the Lumads and peasant settlers of Davao City and North Cotabato. He was also guilty of grave acts of collusion in the reactionary regime’s campaign of duplicity and disunity among Lumads,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said most recently, Labawan’s group was allegedly responsible for the rape and summary killing of two NPA members in Paquibato district in Davao City and the brutal slaying of rebel leader Noel Gulmatico on July 1 in Magpet town also in North Cotabato.

He said government forces captured and tortured Gulmatico before brutally killing him and mutilating his body. “His eyes gouged out of their sockets, tongue severed from his mouth, slash wounds riddled his neck and the back of his head was smashed by some hard object,” he said.

He said Labawan was a fanatic implementer of the AFP'S counter-revolutionary military campaigns that resulted to the numerous deaths, displacement, suffering and hardships of tribesmen and civilians in Davao City and North Cotabato.

Labawan, according to Sanchez, threatened hapless indigenous people of violent retaliation in order to force them to enlist in the Alamara. He said last year, alongside troops from the 69th and 72nd Infantry Battalions coerced 70 tribesmen to join pro-government militia groups and tagged those who resisted as rebel supporters.

“He deputized his minions to carry out widespread land-grabbing and cattlerustling that victimized poor Lumads and settlers in Paquibato, Marilog, Malabog and other areas in Davao City. He peddled the occultist deception of being impervious to bullet wounds, carrying wherever he went to his mysterious oils and amulets. At the time of his death, he was carrying a .45-caliber pistol along with an assortment of oils and amulets,” Sanchez said.

The indigenous organization Kalumuran Mindanao has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to give justice to the killing of Labawan. It said many tribesmen had been killed by rebels in recent months for simply rejecting the communist ideology. It appealed to the government to protect them from harm and threats and intimidation by the NPA.

The NPA is fighting for a separate Maoist state in the country.

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