DAVAO CITY: The New People’s Army (NPA) disowned on Thursday the assassination of Mayor Reynaldo Navarro of Laak, Compostela Valley following military accusations that the communist group was behind the murder.
Navarro was killed in an ambush by motorcycle gunmen on Wednesday in the village of Sagayen in Asuncion town.
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson Rigoberto F. Sanchez said in a statement that Navarro is not a legitimate target although the communist group recently criticized the mayor’s alleged illegal logging operations in Compostela Valley.
“The New People’s Army Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command condemns the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Navarro and offers condolences with his family and colleagues in Laak, Compostela Valley,” said Sanchez.
Navarro was headed for Tagum City when armed men on two motorcycles opened fire at his vehicle in Barangay Sagayen, Asuncion town around 8 a.m. Two of the ambushers were also killed in the firefight.
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy also condemned the killing.
“I strongly condemn the senseless killing of a very dear friend and partner in the development of our province, particularly in Laak. He was an esteemed leader, an honorable man committed to public service,” said Uy.
Sanchez said Navarro has not been considered as “an enemy that warrants a standing order or a recipient of a death sentence.”
Sanchez maintained that Navarro was part of the ‘Big 4’—the alleged four operators of illegal logging in Agusan-Comval-Davao del Norte forests—his “track record did not make him a legitimate military target, thus, no revolutionary punishment was executed against him.”
Sanchez even said that the slain mayor has cooperated with the NPA “and in many ways have demonstrated actions that point to his recognition of the revolutionary cause.”
“In the last few years, however, his business interest in logging and agribusiness expansion has increased. Comrades have repeatedly warned him of his increasing anti-people activities,” said Sanchez. “Navarro had merely ignored these warnings, thus, forcing the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command to caution him publicly against wanton logging, militarization and the attendant human rights abuses that occur during these operations.”
But Sanchez said: “In the midst of these warnings, there are no strong grounds showing Na–varro’s grave offenses against the revolutionary movement that would necessitate the People’s Democratic Government to hand down the maximum penalty of capi- tal punishment.”
Two of Navarro’s bodyguards identified as PO3 Glen Ochoco and PO1 Rey Leones, driver Timitilito Pacano and two other civilians were wounded in the attack.