NPA admits Negros massacre

This file photo, taken in 2008, shows members of the communist rebel New People's Army standing in formation during a ceremony at a remote camp in Davao, on southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The military said on Monday communist rebels killed four unarmed soldiers in an ambush, further hurting efforts to revive stalled talks aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running rebellions

(Updated 8:49 a.m.) - The communist New People's Army on Friday owned up to the massacre of nine people in La Castellana town in Negros Occidental on Jan. 27, an Iloilo-based news site reported Saturday.   A report on The Daily Guardian said the NPA sent a recorded statement to some media outlets, where it insisted it planned a checkpoint operation and not an ambush.   Still, Ka JB Regalado of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command said they regret what happened, adding they only wanted to seize the firearms of  those on board the Canter-type truck.   Nine people, including PO1 Richard Canja, were killed while 12 were wounded in the Jan. 27 incident at Barangay Puso in La Castellana.

The victims were returning from securing a town fiesta before dawn when about 30 heavily-armed gunmen opened fire on them, said Chief Inspector Rico Santotome Jr., spokesman of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, in a previous report.

Santotome identified those killed, aside from Canja, as Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team members Ulysses Tamayor, Jonathan Mateo and Ramir Complesa, civilians Virginia Ordoñez and Lito Lucban, driver Ricky Dingcong, and tanods Mario Ricablanca and Tiotimo Esplegera of Bgy. Puso, said Police Sr. Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, La Castellana PNP chief.   Regalado said the policemen aboard the truck fired at them first, prompting them to respond with gunfire.   But Negros Occidental provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Celestino Guarra Jr. said Regalado’s claims as “lies."   Guarra was quoted in the report as saying the policemen still had their guns in their holsters after the ambush, making it impossible to believe they fired first.   “Lies. Who can fire first – the firearms held in ambush position or firearms which are still in the holster?" he said.   The Daily Guardian report said the NPA will hold its own investigation on what happened and they will extend their condolences to the victims' kin.   The NPA statement also refuted the testimonies of the survivors that the victims were shot dead at close range.

The Philippine Army's elite Scout Rangers backed by helicopter gunships and a battalion of regular infantry have been deployed against the NPA rebels responsible for the ambush.—KG, GMA News