THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday expressed doubts that the New People’s Army (NPA) was involved in the murder of Gonzaga town Mayor Carlito Pentecostes in Cagayan.
AFP-Northern Luzon Command Chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said gunmen were only after the mayor – not the usual style of the rebels.
Pentescostes was shot to death at 8 a.m. on Monday in front of the Gonzaga municipal hall when around 30 armed men disturbed the ongoing flag ceremony.
A note written in the local dialect said the killing was carried out by the NPA since the late mayor allowed black sand mining in the area.
“Normally, the NPA announces that they killed someone. Besides, why was the mayor the only one killed? If they launch an assault, rebels would burn the municipal hall, go on a rampage and start shooting anybody,” Catapang pointed out.
He added that the manner of execution was “brutal” and the plan was clearly premeditated.
In Pentescostes’ case, Catapang noted that the killers patiently waited until the mayor finished delivering his message to town employees after the usual Monday flag-raising ceremony.
Even residents, he said, were surprised at the killing because the town has been very peaceful since 1987 – the last time rebels attacked the municipal hall.
“In 1987, it was a rampage. Rebels burned the municipal hall and shot anyone on sight. This time, they were only after the mayor. They did not hurt or molest anybody,” Catapang said.
In the 1980s, Catapang said Gonzaga was a NPA country but now the situation is normal and generally peaceful. Except for some rebel remnants, the area is classified as insurgency-free.
Following the mayor’s death, Vice Mayor Rene Salvanera took his oath as the new chief executive of the town before Judge Neljoe Cortes Tuesday morning.
Sangguniang Bayan member Jessie Gaspar was named as the town’s new vice mayor.
The event was witnessed by local officials, municipal employees and army officers, including Catapang; Maj. General Benito Antonio De Leon, 5th Infantry Division chief; and Brig. General Inocencio Mayangao, 502 Brigade commander.
The two officials said “with courage and optimism, Gonzaga will soon realize its potential that the former mayor had started.”
Under Pentescostes’ leadership, Gonzaga flourished and became a first-class municipality, earning P300 million from black sand mining in the last three years.
Police in collaboration with army personnel are still looking for the killers.