ASUNCION, Davao del Norte — Acting from an emergency call by a resident who reported that a CPP-NPA terrorist group has been camping nearby, the local tribal defenders (locally called “bagani”) of Barangay Sto. Niño in Laak town, Davao de Oro were attacked by the said terrorist group, killing one (1) bagani and wounding another, on Friday.
Armed only with homemade shotguns which they use for traditional boar and fowl hunting, the bagani exchanged fires with the CPP-NPA who were not only better armed but were also positioned on higher ground which put the bagani at a very disadvantageous position.
According to witnesses, Bensar Alcano, the bagani who was killed in action, held his ground to fire towards the communist-terrorists while ordering his fellow bagani to run and find cover. After about 15 minutes of firefight, the terrorists fled the area leaving Alcano suffering from several gunshot wounds. Alcano died at the encounter site.
Another bagani suffered from a graze gunshot wound and was immediately brought to the hospital for treatment.
60IB Commander, Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento, said that the bagani, through their barangay officials, were able to immediately notify the nearest military detachment about the communist-terrorists’ presence. However, the said terrorist group have already attacked the bagani before the military reinforcement was able to arrive at the area.
The group who attacked the bagani is believed to be from the Weakened Guerilla Front 33, Sub-Regional Command 4, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee who has purportedly been “re-visiting” their former contacts and members in the said town.
In a later interview with authorities, the same resident who reported the group’s presence said he was personally approached by the terrorists who asked him for rice, canned goods, and other foodstuffs. He said that the terrorists even threatened him that “babalikan ka namin” (we will come back for you) if he ever mentions anything to anyone about their presence. But having surrendered to the authorities earlier this year, being a former CPP-NPA supporter himself, the said resident chose to risk reporting the incident to his local officials.
The said resident was among the 1,000 former members and supporters of the CPP-NPA-NDF in Laak who publicly withdrew all their support and allegiances to the said communist-terrorist group and declared the same Persona Non Grata from their entire municipality last June.
Earlier in February, over 1,000 bagani of the Dibabawon tribe in Laak have also formally established their tribal defense association and effectively declared the CPP-NPA-NDF and all its legal front organizations as an enemy of their tribe and also Persona Non Grata from their ancestral domains. These bagani have since been implementing their tribal defense system with respect to their customary laws and in cooperation with local authorities.
“We’ve come to some solid realizations with this incident,” Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento adds.
“First, we have proven, time and again, that the CPP-NPA is nothing but a terrorist group who says that they are fighting for an ideology—for the ‘oppressed masses’ even—when the truth is that the only thing they care about now is the money that comes with the persistence of the armed conflict they so deliberately, if not desperately, nourish. Second, and I think most importantly, we see that the people, indigenous peoples and ordinary citizens alike, are genuinely tired of the CPP-NPA’s terrorism to the point that many of them are already taking it up to themselves to rid their communities of the festering trails of these terrorists.
Meanwhile, Col. Luis Rex Bergante, Commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, also expressed his condolences to the family. He commended the heroic act of Alcano and his fellow bagani and urged the community to never falter in their conviction against the CPP-NPA in spite of the incident.
“Let us remember Bensar Alcano: the brave tribal defender who, despite being an ordinary citizen and armed only with his love for his family and community, stood up against the CPP-NPA’s terroristic bullying. Let us be inspired by his heroic deed and follow the example he has made,” Bergante said.
In a separate statement, Laak Mayor Antonio Libuangan said that he is personally, deeply saddened by this incident and committed to help the family of Alcano in whatever means possible. Libuangan further assured Alcano’s family that his sacrifice will not go unacknowledged.