By Florante S. Solmerin | Manila Standard Today
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Tuesday that it would deploy a battalion of Marines from the Sulu, Eastern Mindanao Command to maintain and preserve peace and order in the region following the ambush of Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental Mayor Ruthie de lara Guingona.
Guingona, wife of former Vice President Teofista Guingona and mother of Senator TG Guingona III, her bodyguards and police escort were attacked Saturday night by New People’s Army rebels while they were on their way home after attending a fiesta, in in Sitio Dumayokod in Brgy. Binakakalan.
Although both wounded, the mayor and her police escort, PO3 Rolando Beneberito, survived the attack, but the two bodyguards were killed.
The bodyguards were later identified as Nestor Velasco and his brother Bartolome.
Following the incident, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the military and police to crush all NPA checkpoints.
He also vowed to “use all the powers” of his office to go after the attackers.
The incident, however, drew varied reactions from several personalities and groups.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for instance, slammed Aquino’s “leftist” advisers for keeping silent on the issue, while militant group Anakbayan asked the president to stop using the ambush as a pretext for “warmongering and pushing for more fascist campaigns against his critics.”
“What can the leftist adviser of the President say now? Why do they remain silent about it. They should be the first to condemn their colleagues,” Marcos asked.
He was apparently referring to Ronald Llamas, the former president of the militant group Akbayan and political adviser of the President.
Marcos said the attack on the mayor was not acceptable to the Filipino people.
“Even more unacceptable and disgusting is the NPA’s lame and entirely incredible explanation that they did not intend to kill civilians and were only forced to defend themselves,” he said.
Soldiers from the 58th Infantry Batallion based in Claveria, Misamis Oriental and Medina are now in hot pursuit of the armed group believed to be members of the NPA’s Army Guerrilla Front 4B, of the North Central Mindanao Revolutionary Command.
Anakbayan, however, said Aquino should heed the Guingonas’ calls to pursue sincere peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
Anakbayan said the Aquino government should “show its sincerity in attaining just and lasting peace, sit down with the NDF and not by the AFP.”
“It is most unfortunate that the Aquino government and the rabid fascists in the AFP are seemingly using the incident to further wage fascist military campaigns, which targets civilians,” said Anakbayan president Vencer Crisostomo.
Anakbayan also expessed their support for the former Vice President and his family, which they “recognize and respect” for their contribution in the anti-dictatorship struggle and consistent nationalist stance regarding various issues.
“The Aquino administration has been sabotaging the peace negotiations with the NDFP and has not really been engaged in a serious, sincere talks,” Crisostomo said.
He called on the government to instead “work towards attaining just and lasting peace by addressing the root causes of the raging rebellion and pursuing sincere talks with the NDFP.”
Eastmincom Commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, meanwhile, clarified that the 5,000-strong Marines was not a reaction to the ambush.
“Not necessarily Misamis Oriental. I think it will be a bigger area. The marine battalion will assist Army troops for the maintenance and preservation of peace and order within the area of jurisdiction of the 4th Infantry Division,” he said.
According to 4th ID spokesman Maj. Leo Bongosia, the mission of the Marine battalion is election-related.
“The reason behind that (deployment) is not because of the incident that happened against Mayor Guingona but they (Marines) will be an added unit for the incoming elections. Their addition into the 4th ID would be a big boost for the conduct our security operations,” Bongosia said.
The Marines are expected to arrive at the 4th ID headquarters today (Wednesday) or Thursday.
Cruz, meanwhile, said the NPA had a prepared plan of ambush against the Guingona’s convoy.
“They deliberately put up roadblocks designed to harass or ambush certain targets whether they be politicians or military or police. In the case of Mayor Guingona, they really set up one for her convoy. They knew she will pass in that area and they really planned to ambush her,” he said.
Cruz also appealed to poll bets to inform the military or police about their campaign routes in order for them to provide security against rebel groups who threatened to kill candidates who refuse to give campaign fees.