The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called on the New People’s Army (NPA) to avenge the nine Tumandok massacred by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army last December 30.
In a statement a day after the massacre, the underground group urged its armed wing to punish “the police butchers” who killed the nine tribesfolk in Tapaz, Capiz last Rizal Day.
“The NPA is duty-bound to defend the Tumandok people by holding to account the perpetrators of these crimes and carrying out offensives to disable the fascists from carrying out further attacks and armed suppression against Tumandok minorities,” it said.
In simultaneous raids starting at 4 AM, the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)—Region 6 raided the houses of the victims and shot them dead.
The police also arrested 16 Tumandok tribesfolk in Tapaz and in the neighboring town of Calinog, Iloilo Province.
Shootout, the police says
CIDG-Region 6 claimed the incident was the result of a “legitimate police operation” to serve 28 warrants of arrest issued by various courts outside of Iloilo and Capiz.
Group commander Lt. Col. Gervacio Balmaceda said they were fired upon when they approached the victims’ houses, leading to a shootout.
“The nine died when they fired at positions of law enforcement officers,” Balmaceda claimed in a press briefing after the carnage.
The PNP CIDG also alleged that the victims were NPA members.
Those killed were:
(1) Eliseo Gayas, Jr. of Barangay Aglinab;
(2) Mauro Diaz of Barangay Tacayan;
(3) Arcelito Katipunan of Barangay Acuña;
(4) Mario Aguirre of Barangay Lahug;
(5) Roy Giganto of Barangay Lahug;
(6) Jomer Vidal of Barangay Daan Sur;
(7) Dalson Catamin of Barangay Nayawan;
(8) Reynaldo Katipunan of Barangay Lahug, a Barangay Council Member; and
(9) Rolando Diaz, Sr. of Barangay Nayawan, Tapaz.
Catamin is an incumbent Barangay Chairperson while Aguirre, Giganto and Katipunan are incumbent village councilors.
Giganto is the current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi/Tumandok Farmers in Defense of Land and Life (TUMANDUK) chairperson while Gayas is an incumbent council member.
Among those confirmed arrested in the same operations were:
(1) Marilyn Castor Chiva, 26, of Brgy. Alibunan, Calinog, Iloilo;
(2) Luisito Bautista, 57, of Brgy. Garangan;
(3) Carlito Diaz of Brgy. Nayawan, Tapaz, Capiz;
(4) Wilsie Chiva, 65, of Brgy. Garangan, Calinog;
(5) Marivic Aguirre of Brgy. Lahug, Tapaz;
(6) Marilou Sumaria Catamin, 54 years old, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz;
(7) Rolen Caro Catamin, 21, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz;
(8) Jucie Katipunan Caro, 44, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz;
(9) Eleutricia Calbo Caro, 62, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz;
(10) Rolando Caspillo, 56, of Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz;
(11) Aileen Catamin of Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz;
(12) Ferdinand Casipillo of Acuña, Tapaz, Capiz;
(13) Benny Lorana of Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz, Capiz;
(14) Benito Caballero, 52, of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog;
(15) Lauriano Castor, 39, of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog; and
(16) Rodolfo Diaz, 74, of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog.
Those arrested were charged with violations of Republic Act (RA) 10591, the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2020, and RA 9516 for illegal possession of explosives.
The police said they “recovered” 26 caliber .45 pistols, 26 rifle grenades, 12 hand grenades, a caliber .38 revolver, a caliber .9mm sub-machine gun and an assortment of improvised guns as well as ammunition.
Relatives of the victims however dispute the police version of the incidents, saying most of them were ordered to exit their houses, giving the raiders the opportunity to summarily kill the victims and plant evidence.
Family members of Gayas said they were ordered by the police operatives to go out of their house before entering and killing the victim outright with four gun shots.
Aguirre’s and Giganto’s houses meanwhile were forcibly entered by the operatives and shot the victims dead while they were asleep.
Inquirer.net reported that relatives of the victims denied they owned the firearms and explosives the police said were found in the houses.
Barangay Roosevelt council member Ludovisa Catamin said in a radio interview that the policemen and soldiers entered their house and arrested her son Rolen.
She said they were ordered out while a policeman entered their house and went out saying the firearms had been found and seized.
The CPP said it holds President Rodrigo Duterte and his “blood-thirsty” National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) responsible for the “atrocities”.
“The brutal offensives are clearly aimed at breaking the Tumandok people’s resistance to the Jalaur Mega Dam Project which will inundate their ancestral lands. These form part of the regime’s crackdown against democratic forces which aims to stifle dissent and suppress their mass struggles,” the CPP said.
Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the killings and arrests of the Tumandok tribesfolk who have been “ceaselessly red-tagged by the military for their vocal opposition to militarization in their communities and, in recent years, the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam project.:
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that the Duterte regime’s “murderous rampage” has “not ceased even amid the holiday season, claiming more and more innocent lives in the last days of the year.”
Iloilo City-based alternative media outfit Panay Today also reported that a community leader of Barangay Lahug sought the help of the CHR because the residents were threatened by the Philippine Army and PNP’s presence in their community since last June.
Panay Today also reported that Barangay Lahug residents have also evacuated to Tapaz Municipal Civic Center due to constant threats from the military and police forces following the massacre and mass arrests.
Around 70 individuals are also evacuating their homes to Barangay Garangan Hall and health center every night since the raids. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Panay Today)