THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said the New People’s Army rebels responsible for killing Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. belonged to a gun-for-hire group.
Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command, said rebels who turned themselves into a gun-for-hire group are out to destroy peace, knowing that they could not manipulate the masses if they are enjoying peace and prosperity.
“These communist remnants target local officials especially those who are performing well in their turf or who have turned their areas into progressive or first class municipalities,” Catapang explained.
“That is why they threaten or kill local officials who are serving well just like the case in Gonzaga,” Catapang said.
He said this particular group, which is a remnant NPA rebels conduct activities such as burning of equipment when their owners failed to respond to their wishes or deliver the amount they are demanding.
“They have lost their cause. They are selling their services and threatening people who refuse to give in to their demands. They extort money from helpless civilians,” he added.
Meanwhile, Catapang has assured communities that the AFP and the Philippine National Police are ready to secure and defend them “from violence and fear” being sowed by the NPA remnants.
“We will not allow them to control any area. We will pursue them and crush them,” said Catapang.
On Wednesday, Catapang went to Gonzaga town to oversee the joint army’s pursuit operations against the armed group.
He did not comment when asked if the armed group was hired by politicians to assassinate Gonzaga.
The slain mayor’s family had earlier doubted the involvement of NPA rebels to the killing, saying politics was behind it.
“I hope it is not. But we are not discounting such possibility. We will not allow political killings to happen. We will not allow anarchy to prevail,” Catapang said.
Pentecostes, 60, was shot dead by two of eight armed men in camouflage during the regular flag ceremony at the town hall grounds on May 21. He died from nine gunshots to the head and upper body.
More than 30 armed men in camouflage seized control of the town hall grounds during the attack, disarming three policemen manning the traffic along the national highway.
A note written in the local dialect said the killing was carried out by the NPA because Pentecostes had allowed national government-sanctioned black sand mining in the area.
Three days after the incident, NPA’s West Cagayan Front released a statement claiming responsibility citing “espionage.”
NPA’s West Cagayan Front spokesman Ester Falcon said Pentecostes was “guilty for aiding the military” in their operations against them as primary reason for his execution.
But Catapang disclosed that the NPA’s Danilo Ben Command operating in Cagayan disowned the mayor’s killing.
Catapang said they have information that the Danilo Ben Command disowned the killing and the “the action of the armed group was not coordinated with them.”