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NEGROS ASSASSINS USED TO BE NPA REBELS, NOW THEY ARE SOLDIERS

March 11, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 405 views

Alfred DalizonIn the early 80s and 90s, Negros Oriental used to be the hotbed of communist insurgency where New People’s Army rebels are known to be killing government troops and innocent civilians in surprise attacks.

There were also instances wherein some rebels were accused of turning into guns-for-hire after being paid of by some rouge politicians and moneyed businessmen to kill their rivals.

In July 2019, the country was rocked by reports that heavily-armed NPA guerrillas ambushed and killed four policemen who were on patrol duties. That incident triggered a continuing massive police and military operation that led in the neutralization of many of the rebels.

Nearly four years after, it’s now the turn of ex-Army soldiers to become ‘professional hitmen’ who will kill their targets and even innocent civilians as evidenced by the video footage during the murder of Governor Roel Degamo and eight others on Saturday last week.

To their credit, local police and military troops quickly went into action and sealed off the area leading to the capture of four of the suspects and the killing of another in a gunbattle. At least three of the suspects turned out to be dismissed Army troopers.

It’s good to hear that the Armed Forces leadership has announced the intensified monitoring of its men who end up engaging in criminal acts specifically gun-for-hire activities in the aftermath of the Negros Oriental massacre.

I really believe that both AFP chief General Andy Centino and PNP chief, Gen. Jun Azurin must see to it that their men who have learned shooting, counter-terror and other combat skills courtesy of the government should not use their ‘talent’ to rob, rape, kidnap or worst, kill targets for a fee.

Having covered the police and military beats since 1990, I have grown accustomed to some soldiers and policemen turning into criminals. Just remember the infamous Jones Bridge Massacre in Manila on June 8, 1989 wherein rogue soldiers-turned bank and armored van robbers killed a number of innocent people.

The list goes on and on including the notorious Kuratong Baleleng, the Solido Group and the Waray-Ozamis Group which were said to have been composed of civilians-turned hardened criminals and dismissed military personnel who turned into robbery-holdups and kidnapping-for-ransom.

What the PNP and the AFP must do is to have an honest-to-goodness counter-intelligence which will result in the neutralization of active, dismissed and AWOL police and military personnel engaged in criminal activities.

On Saturday, PNP Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant General Rhodel Sermonia vowed to give justice to people of Negros Oriental and ensure that peace and order will finally reign in the province which has been put in a lockdown by security forces amid the ongoing hunt for the rest of the killers of Gov. Degamo and the other victims.

“ I would like to express the utmost commitment of the PNP to give justice to the family of Governor Degamo and for peace and order to reign supreme for the people of Negros,” said Sermonia, also the PNP Deputy Chief for Administration.

Lt. Gen. Sermonia joined Defense Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. who has ordered the deployment of 50 battle-hardened troops in Negros Island to help restore order. Galvez and Gen. Centino said their response stemmed from an order by PBBM to “suppress all forms of lawless violence and restore peace and order in Negros island as soon as possible.”

“Our presence here is to ensure that we can restore civility and normalcy in this province. We are here not just to solve the crime and to compel perpetrators to answer for their crimes, but more so, we are here to put a stop to the culture of violence that causes fear in the hearts and minds of the people — and see to it that it never happens again,” Lt. Gen. Sermonia said.

“I understand the apprehension some sectors have over the extensive operations of joint task force of the DILG, the Defense and Justice Departments over the killing of Governor Degamo,” he explained.

“ But I urge you to understand also that such a tremendous crime must be equated with response so strong the impact that it will send message to all that we do not take light such an incident, that we are committed to do everything in the capacity of the administration of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. so we can repair the damage caused by the killing of Governor Degamo to the integrity our country, as well as to manifest that our justice system is at work,” he added.

On Friday, PNP and AFP troops raided four identified residences of Negros Oriental (3rd District) Representative Arnolfo ‘Arnie’ Teves where they seized a cache of weapons and grenade. At least six men working for the lawmaker were arrested during the simultaneous raids supervised by officers from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group under Brigadier Gen. Bong Caramat Jr.

A total of six automatic rifles, one 12-gauge shotgun and eight handguns were confiscated during the raids. They include five M4 automatic rifles, one M-16 equipped with an M-203 grenade launcher and dozens of magazines and over 100 different live ammunition.

The recovered weapons will be cross-matched with the pieces of evidence recovered at the scene of the killing of Gov. Degamo and eight others. I learned that the poor governor was shot at least 11 times.

Gen. Azurin has named PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Major Gen. Jonnel Estomo as commander of the Special Investigation Task Group Degamo formed to go after the Degamo killers.

Maj. Gen. Estomo will be having PNP Director for Investigation and Detection Management, Maj. Gen. Ely Cruz as SITG Degamo assistant commander. PNP Public Information Office chief, Colonel Red Maranan will be the spokesperson of the group which will be working under DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos.

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