The New People’s Army (NPA) has killed at least 17 civilians in Pantukan since October 2015. Based on police blotters from Pantukan PNP, they have accounted 17 deaths that were perpetrated by the NPAs in Pantukan. All of the victims were said to be involved in drug related activities in the Municipality.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Seigfred Tubalado, Commander of 46th Infantry Battalion who has operational jurisdiction of Pantukan, the series of liquidations were intended to accomplish two things. First, they intend to discredit the government claiming that it is unable to address the drug problem in the locality. And second, it intends to sow fear among the community that the group is capable of killing people.
“These are 17 cases of extra-judicial killings admitted by the NPA that were never condemned by the groups accusing us of having a death squad,” said LTC Tubalado.
Recently, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region Secretary General, Hanimay Suazo, has accused the military of killing at least 7 civilians whom she said were all part of groups opposed to large scale miinings in the area. Of these 7, two are in Pantukan both of which she said that the killers “could have come from the 46th IB, who have been on a rampage in Pantukan lately.” PNP reports however belied her claims saying that the two cases did not involve the military. One case was attributed to personal grudge and the other was a result of a simple motorcycle accident. It was the same issue echoed by other left leaning groups in social media and other information platforms.
“The accusations are mere efforts to discredit our peace effort in the area. They shout these accusations in so many means except the proper way which is to file appropriate charges substantiated by evidence,” LTC Tubalado retorted.
In October 10, 2015, 46thInfantry Battalion assumed jurisdiction of Pantukan. From then on, the NPA started their killing spree beginning in October 11, 2015. The NPA has admitted the murder and warned many more to come in the succeeding days. As of January 14, 17 have been killed. All of these deaths were admitted by the NPA. Their claim is that the government is inutile in curbing the drug problem.
The truth though is far from what they claim to be. By end of October, around 200 civilians who, accordingly, had connections with drugs, were told to go to a remote area. According to one of those who went to the said meeting, NPA leader alias Raden told them that if they will not cooperate with them they will suffer the same fate as those already killed. From those in the meeting, some have joined the NPA full time while the others who went back were said to be given tasks for the NPA.
According to LTC Francis Carter Sibal, the commander of 10th CMO Battalion, this modus operandi of the NPA is nothing new. He said that the NPAs have used the issue on drugs as a means to project their ability to kill people especially at a time when they are already loosing support.
“If they start to lose support they go to the extent of even ‘commissioning’ drug lords. These drug lords then operate under the protection of the NPA who also generate funds from the illegal trade for the group. They kill the ordinary user claiming to curb illegal drugs and the propaganda is set into motion,” LTC Sibal explained.
In January 14, Pantukan PNP gathered those who were called up by the NPAs for a one-day enlightenment seminar. The program that was initiated by Municipal Mayor Robert Yugo included a program for livelihood in order to put them away from drugs. The Police on the other hand conducted investigation on their involvement to drugs.
To date, Suazo’s Karapatan has continued on her crusade to discredit government. The 46IB on the other hand has embarked on an invigorated Peace and development program together with the local government and other community stakeholders.
“It is important that we provide the right information to our public for them to understand who the enemy is. Our Battalion will continue to serve the people of Pantukan. We also ask that the people will be the ones to judge us for what we have done for the community. Let us not fall prey to the deception of groups who wish to destroy our community,” LTC Tubalado concluded.