DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The New People’s Army (NPA) on Sunday, April 21 apologized to the Guingonas for hurting Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona in an encounter with her group in Misamis Oriental last night, and claimed they acted “in self-defense.”
“We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident. We take responsibility for this,” said Allan Juanito, spokesman of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Regional Command.
Police said the mayor and her bodyguards were on their way home from a fiesta when they were fired upon by communist rebels at around 11 pm, Saturday, April 20 in Brgy Binakakalan in Gingoog.
Juanito said the incident was not an ambush.
“It started when Mayor Guingona’s armed escorts fired upon an NPA checkpoint,” he said.
“The lead vehicle of Mayor Guingona’s convoy rammed against the bamboo roadblock mounted by the red fighters while her escorts opened fire at the NPAs flagging down the convoy. The red fighters immediately returned fire in self defense,” he narrated.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III said the rebels threw grenades and fired at his mother’s vehicle causing it to overturn. Ruthie sustained wounds, while her two aides, brothers Nestor and Bartolome Velasco, died.
A third person, who has yet to be identified, was also reportedly killed. A cop who was part of Ruthie’s security detail was wounded in the incident, initial reports said.
“We offer condolences and express our deepest sympathy for the bereaved families,” Juanito said, adding the NPA would indemnify the families.
Checkpoints to remain
Juanito reiterated the NPA didn’t mean for the deadly encounter to happen.
He said the group recognizes former vice president Teofisto Guingona’s significant contribution to the Filipino people’s anti-dictatorship struggle and his steadfast nationalist standpoint on various issues.
“We look upon Senator TG Guingona’s pro-people standpoint.”
The communist spokesman explained that the NPA unit involved was carrying out orders from the regional command “to implement the revolutionary policies regarding the conduct of elections, to flag down candidates and campaigners who carry firearms and armed escorts during their campaign sorties in guerilla zones when doing their campaign rounds without proper coordination with the concerned revolutionary territorial committees and commands.”
He said the NPA unit in the area has been manning checkpoints since April 15.
“Three of these checkpoints were put up in Gingoog City. Among those held at a checkpoint in Brgy. Samay were 4 of Mayor Guingona’s campaigners. Aside from explaining our policy to her campaigners, responsible cadres in the area also personally contacted Mayor Guingona through phone, reminding her to avoid bringing armed escorts during campaign sorties,” Juanito explained.
Despite the incident, Juanito said NPA checkpoint operations would continue.
"We wish to reiterate our warning to all candidates who are campaigning in guerilla zones to avoid carrying firearms or armed escorts to avoid the occurrence of similar incident in the future.” – Rappler.com