Senate orders: verify, protect Kagubak hit-list

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police will investigate alleged killings by a supposed anti-communist death squad in Negros Oriental, Police General Oscar Albayalde said Thursday, saying also that the deaths may just be rebel propaganda.

Impartial observers also say that Kagubak may just also be a possible creation of some sectors among certain  law enforcerment groups   who might subscribe to the mission to eliminate alleged communist supporters. A pseudo-vigilante  group might also  exempt the military from being implicated.

Sens. Ronald Dela Rosa and Risa Hontiveros  at the Senate hearing on the Guihulngan killings last Tuesday called for a police probe into Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) and come up with verified reports about its existence if at all.

Senator dela Rosa presiding during the hearing said that the identities of Kagubak members should be identified  and should be determined if  they were the ones who killed Atty Trinidad and the others in the list  identified as as Heide Flores, Roberto Caday, Boy LItong and his son.

Dela Rosa told the Senate that unless stopped, there will be no end to such killings as the NPA could also retaliate.

Kagubak claimed the NPAs killed ten people  in the province . “It seems that these people (Kagubak) are trying to fill in the shortcomings of government  by taking the law into their own hands , if they were really the people who killed the people on the list,” Senator dela Rosa told reporters.

It was learned during the Senate probe into the recent string of killings in Negros island that five of 15 people tagged as New People’s Army supporters in the group’s flyer,  have since been killed.

Albayalde said he has yet to receive a report from the regional director and provincial director in the area regarding the group. Eyebrows were raised why until now the chief PNP has not yet received a full report or has yet to hear from the regional directors.

However, initial investigations show that the 5 victims (out of l5 names in the alleged Kagiwa hit-list) are not (yet) confirmed as communist supporters or sympathizers.  Some victims are involved in land disputes of two old bachelors and school officials who were clients of a lawyer who reportedly won their land cases in court. All three were killed .

Albayalde  said he will confer with the police director in Negros to determine whether the group really exists. He also assured the public that police are looking into the cases of the victims of the supposed death squad.

But so long as the names in the hit-list are legitimate citizens, then it is the duty of the law enforcers to protect those in the hit list. None of those in the hit list have come out into the open for authentication.

The report said that the police chief is also looking into the possibility that the killings were either part of a “purge” or are for propaganda   , but of and by whom? He asked.

“They sacrifice their own and then they blame the security forces—the PNP and AFP. This is not a new propaganda espoused by these left-leaning groups,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Albayalde made a similar statement after nine sugar workers were killed in Sagay City, also on Negros island, last October.

He said a bungkalan, or land cultivation activity, that ended in the deaths was “a grand design to occupy private and government property using their mass base and to create untoward incident then blame it on the government.”

Rights group Karapatan and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers earlier said that Trinidad’s murder showed that “hit lists” often translate to killings.

“This only proves as well that the perceived dangers of being arbitrarily, maliciously and baselessly red-tagged are neither imaginary nor contrived, but constitute real threats to life, liberty and security,” Edre Olaila, NUPL secretary general, said.

Both the Karapatan and NUPL, as well as other rights groups, earlier sought protection from Philippine courts against red-tagging as they point out the rising killings among their members. They failed to receive favorable ruling from the Court of Appeals.

‘Hit list’ discussed at Senate probe

During the Senate hearing on August 27, Hontiveros pointed out that a third in the Kagubak’s “hit list,” has been killed. This included human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad.

Trinidad’s killing, the senator said, confirms that the “hit list” is “real.”

Lt. Col. Bonifacio Tecson, Guihulngan City police chief, also revealed that several people on the list—including Trinidad—had approached the police to clear their names when the flyers came out in 2018.

“Many went to the police station. They wanted to clear their names [and clarify] that they are not supporters of the NPA,” Tecson said.

Senator and former PNP chief,  Bato Dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, called on the Police Regional Office 7 “to account for the 10 living persons on the list. And if possible give them the rightful protection if they are found to be law abiding citizens.” — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from News5/Greg Gregorio (www.philstar.com) with Negros Chronicle reports.