Suspected NPA members murder Lumad leader in Davao del Norte

MANILA, Philippines – Suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) brutally murdered a Lumad leader from Kapalong town in Davao del Norte.

Datu Benandao Maugan, 59, a tribal leader of Sitio Luno-luno, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, was killed by the alleged communist guerillas at around 1 pm on Sunday, December 17, in front of his people.

According to a police report, which cites the testimony of Maugan's brother-in-law who witnessed the scene, several NPA members led by a certain Renard Catarata (alias SM or Tata) and Rene Catarata (alias Gilbert) arrived in their village on Sunday morning while Maugan was out hunting.

The alleged NPA members, he said, forced them to assemble at the village center, where their jungle knives or bolos were confiscated. Also present were Maugan's wife, child, and several relatives.

Upon his arrival, Maugan was reportedly dragged to a nearby hut. He was heard saying, "Pahibal-a ko ninyo kung unsay sala nako." (Tell me what I have done wrong.)

Maugan was then reportedly blindfolded, hogtied, and dragged to the riverside by at least 5 armed men, including a certain Bucay Matog and alias Dasoc. A few minutes after, the villagers heard several gunshots.

SM Catarata supposedly instructed the people to pick up the body of Maugan, whom he described as a "corrupt" and "hard-headed" leader.

Maugan's brother-in-law and the other villagers then recovered the leader's body, which sustained 9 gunshot wounds.

After the incident, the alleged NPA members fled the village and threatened those who would oppose them.

In 2013, Maugan refused to give in to the NPA's demand and prevented his entire village from evacuating to Haran, Davao City, for their communist propaganda. On several occasions, he also prevented his villagers from being used by the NPA as errand runners.

In one account, Maugan was said to have been accused by the NPA of personally blocking food supplies supposedly delivered to them in nearby Sitio Muling.

Recently, Maugan also facilitated the establishment of a public school in Luno-luno in collaboration with the local government of Kapalong.

Police said they are now preparing a case against the NPA members.

Meanwhile, Kapalong Mayor Maria Theresa Timbol has given initial assistance to Maugan's family.

News of Maugan's killing comes as President Rodrigo Duterte declared a ceasefire with communist rebels during the Christmas season, from December 24, 2017, to January 2, 2018. –