ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels on Friday owned up to the killing of a tribal leader they accused of being behind the murder of an Italian missionary in North Cotabato in 2011.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army (NPA), said rebel forces killed Ruben Labawan, a leader of the militia group called Alamara, in Panabo City on July 6.
He said Labawan was also working for the military and behind the numerous killings of indigenous people and civilians suspected of supporting or aiding the NPA.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops, with Labawan’s Alamara and other paramilitaries at their heels, have committed the most fanatic and barbaric acts of war crimes around the region, such as the cold-murder of Fr. Fausto Tentorio,” Sanchez said.
Tentorio, who was accused by the Alamara group of being a sympathizer of the NPA, was shot outside his convent in Arakan town in North Cotabato province on October 17, 2011.
Sanchez said most recently, Labawan’s group was allegedly responsible for the rape and summary killing of two NPA members in Paquibato district in Davao City and the brutal slaying of rebel leader Noel Gulmatico on July 1 in Magpet town, North Cotabato.
He said government forces captured and tortured Gulmatico before brutally killing him and mutilating his body.
“The New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao and the lumad and peasant masses in the region commend the NPA-1st Pulang Bagani Battalion in successfully carrying out the standing order of the People’s Revolutionary Court in dispensing justice against Ruben Labawan last June 6 in Panabo City.”
“Labawan was guilty of blood debts and thereby meted with the death penalty for serious crimes against the people, especially the lumad and peasant settlers of Davao City and North Cotabato. He was also guilty of grave acts of collusion in the reactionary regime’s campaign of duplicity and disunity among lumads,” Sanchez said.
He added Labawan threatened hapless indigenous people of violent retaliation in order to force them to enlist in the Alamara. Last year, alongside troops from the 69th and 72nd Infantry Battalions, coerced 70 tribesmen to join pro-government militia groups and tagged those who resisted as rebel supporters.
“He deputized his minions to carry out widespread land-grabbing and cattle-rustling that victimized poor lumad and settlers in Paquibato, Marilog, Malabog and other areas in Davao City. He peddled the occultist deception of being impervious to bullet wounds, carrying wherever he went to his mysterious oils and amulets. At the time of his death, he was carrying a .45-caliber pistol along with an assortment of oils and amulets,” Sanchez said.
The indigenous organization Kalumuran Mindanao has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to give justice to the killing of Labawan.