Dela Rosa, Hontiveros demand ‘serious’ probe into Negros vigilante group

Rambo Talabong

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Dela Rosa, Hontiveros demand ‘serious’ probe into Negros vigilante group
Senator Risa Hontiveros says the death of 5 of the 15 people in vigilante group Kagubak's hit list 'confirms that the hit list is real'

MANILA, Philippines – Two senators on Tuesday, August 27, called on the Philippine National Police (PNP_ to conduct a “serious investigation” into an alleged vigilante group targeting civilians accused of supporting the communist movement in Negros Oriental.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, backed the call of Senator Risa Hontiveros at the probe into the spate of killings in Negros attended by Negros Oriental officials, police officials, and other stakeholders in Negros Oriental.

Hontiveros stressed the importance of an investigation after learning that 5 of the 15 people tagged as communist sympathizers in leaflets circulated by Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Kumunista (Guihulngan Against Communists) or Kagubak had been killed.

“This confirms that the Kagubak hit list is real. To not investigate this would be an outrage. Let’s be serious, let’s not just investigate the list, but Kagubak because they have a bloody track record in Guihulngan,” said Hontiveros who, along with Senator Leila de Lima, filed the resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the negros killings.

Dela Rosa backed her call. “This committee demands from PRO7 (Police Regional Office 7) that the 10 living persons who are in that hit list. Account for them when you get home and make sure that they are still alive,” he said.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, who attended the hearing, said he would do his best to “dismantle” Kagubak.

“As governor, I will coordinate with mayor and RD (regional director) Debold Sinas that this Kagubak, if possible, will be dismantled,” he said. 

More dead

Senators at the hearing apparently thought that there was only one person on the Kagubak list that had been killed – lawyer Anthony Trinidad who has shot dead on July 23. Police had said that the lawyer was suspected of links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).  (READ: Negros Oriental Bloodshed: State-sponsored or insurgency-related?)

Trinidad is among the victims of killings in Negros since June. In a span of 10 days in July, 21 people were killed, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to consider using “drastic” measures  to end violence in the island province.

During the hearing, Guihulngan police chief Lieutenant Colonel Bonifacio Tecson said 4 others on the Kagubak list had been killed.

Tecson also said that he had seen a copy of the list as early as January 2018, and that some of those on the list, including Trinidad, had approached him to seek help. When Dela Rosa asked him whether he helped these people, Tecson said he tried to, but he was reassigned to another station later in 2018.

Dela Rosa, former PNP chief, said that he did not encounter Kagubak when he was top cop.

Alsa Masa

While Hontiveros and Dela Rosa agreed on the need to investigate Kagubak, they differed on their position on Alsa Masa, which was established as a vigilante group in 1984 to combat the communist insurgency in Barangay Agdao, Davao City.  While the group was commended for its help in fighting communist rebels, it was also accused of human rights abuses and of targetting innocent civilians.

Hontiveros said community conflicts can be resolved though sustainable development programs carried out by local governments with the help of the national government, and that “there is no space for vigilante groups like Alsa Masa” as peace and order operations should be done only by the police and the military. 

Dela Rosa, for his part, said there were many reasons to be “thankful” to Alsa Masa, and cited how it helped stem the communist insurgency in Davao which would have turned into “killing fields” without the help of the group.

“Look at what Davao has become today,” he said. 

The panel invited representatives from human rights groups Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend)  but they declined the invitation and said they would just submit their position papers. – 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.