A LOCAL tribal defender or Bagani was killed, while another was wounded, after they were attacked by alleged members of the New People’s Army in Barangay Sto. Niño in Laak, Davao de Oro on Friday.
1Lt Amadeuz Vj Celestial, the Civil-Military Operations Officer of 60th Infantry battalion, said Bensar Alcano led a group of tribal defenders to verify the information from a resident that armed men were camping nearby.
Armed only with homemade shotguns, which they use for traditional boar and fowl hunting, the group were fired upon by the rebels who were not only better armed but also had the added advantage of a higher position. Because of these factors, the NPAs overwhelmed the smaller group.
According to witnesses, Alcano held his ground to cover for his fellow baganis as they made their retreat.
After about 15 minutes of firefight, the NPAs left the area and he died at the scene from several gunshot wounds.
Another man was grazed with a bullet and was immediately brought to the hospital for treatment.
Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento, the 60IB commander, said that the barangay officials immediately notified the nearest military detachment. But the NPAs were already gone before reinforcement arrived.
The group who attacked the bagani was believed to be from Guerilla Front 33, Sub-Regional Command 4, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.
In a later interview with authorities, the same resident who reported the group’s presence said he was approached by the rebels who asked him for rice, canned goods, and other foodstuffs. He was also reportedly threatened by the NPA if he reported their presence.
Celestial said the resident was among the 1,000 former members and supporters of the NPA in Laak who publicly withdrew all their support and allegiance to the communist group.
Earlier in February, over 1,000 baganis of the Dibabawon tribe in Laak have also formally established their tribal defense association to defend their ancestral domain from the NPA.
“We’ve come to some solid realizations with this incident,” Sarmiento added.
“First, we have proven, time and again, that the CPP-NPA is nothing but a terrorist group who says that they are fighting for an ideology—for the ‘oppressed masses’ even—when the truth is that the only thing they care about now is the money that comes with the persistence of the armed conflict they so deliberately, if not desperately, nourish,” he said.
“Second, and I think most importantly, we see that the people, indigenous peoples and ordinary citizens alike, are genuinely tired of the CPP-NPA’s terrorism to the point that many of them are already taking it up to themselves to rid their communities of the festering trails of these terrorists,” Sarmiento added.
Meanwhile, Col. Luis Rex Bergante, commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, expressed his condolences to the family as he commended the heroic act of Alcano and his fellow baganis.
“Let us remember Bensar Alcano: the brave tribal defender who, despite being an ordinary citizen and armed only with his love for his family and community, stood up against the CPP-NPA’s terroristic bullying. Let us be inspired by his heroic deed and follow the example he has made,” Bergante said.
In a separate statement, Laak Mayor Antonio Libuangan promised to extend assistance to Alcano’s family. He also assured them that his ultimate sacrifice would not be in vain.
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