DAVAO CITY – The New People’s Army (NPA) owned up the killing of a Cotabato province security chief on Sunday, February 7, saying it was meant to punish one of those who connived the deaths of several human rights defenders in Mindanao.

Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the NPA’s Front Operations Command in the provinces of Cotabato and Bukidnon, said assassinating Bernabe Abanilla was “a huge victory for the people in Arakan and the revolutionary movement.”

On February 7, Abanilla was gunned down by three unidentified men at a Catholic Church in Barangay Doroluman, Arakan, Cotabato province. His bodyguard was also killed in the attack.

Abanilla, also known as Bantito, was a former member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Arakan town and a former Barangay chairman of Doroluman.

‘Abanilla behind Fr. Pops, Beng Hernandez’s death’

During his stint as CAFGU member, Abanilla was linked to “Bagani Force,” a paramilitary group believed to be behind the deaths of many human rights activists and indigenous peoples vocal against the militarization in ancestral areas in the provinces of Cotabato and Bukidnon.

The NPA also claimed that Abanilla was one of the masterminds in the killings of Italian priest Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and former student journalist Benjaline Hernandez.

“Bantito (Abanilla) was a CAFGU during these years and is a known supporter and member of the fanatics under the leadership of Mansadong and Kumander Iring,” said Santiago.

On October 17, 2011, Tentorio was shot several times inside a parish compound in Arakan Valley, Cotabato. Four years later, a Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases found sufficient circumstantial evidences to file charges against the Bagani group.

On April 5, 2002, Hernandez was attacked by the CAFGU and military in Sitio Bukatol, Barangay Kinayawan, Arakan. Hernandez was in the area doing documentation work on the killing of peasant members of Arakan Peasant Progressive Organization (APPO). Eight years later, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found the government guilty for violating Hernandez’s human rights. Hernandez was an editor at Ateneo de Davao University’s campus paper Atenews until she filed a leave of absence in 2001.

Plot to kill Abanilla not the first time – NPA

It was not the NPA’s first time to plot Abanilla’s assassination.

In 2001, the NPA ambushed Abanilla in Valencia, Sto. Niño, Arakan town to penalize him for human rights abuses against the residents. In the same year, Abanilla was included in the ambush against former Arakan town mayor Aproniano Ebon.

“After the killings, Abanilla swore before the revolutionary movement that he will cut his connection with Commander Iring and will not do any action against the revolutionary forces and the residents in Arakan,” Santiago said in a statement written in Cebuano.

The NPA gave him amnesty, but he maintained his ties with the paramilitary group, the group explained.

Santiago said Abanilla has been attacking revolutionary mass organizations from 2005 until he was killed.

Cotabato provincial governor, Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, mourned the death of the ex-CAFGU member, saying “the murder of Abanilla is a great loss of a life of a man who was a dedicated family man and who was devoted to his work.”

In 2014, she offered a P200,000 bounty to arrest the suspect behind the attempts to kill Abanilla. (davaotoday.com)

comments powered by Disqus