DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 29 May) — The New People’s Army Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command denied it had anything to do with Wednesday’s ambush-slay of Mayor Reynaldo Navarro of Laak, Compostela Valley.
Navarro was killed in an ambush along Km. 9 in Barangay Sagayen in neighboring Asuncion town in Davao del Norte.
In a press statement dated May 29, Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, condemned the killing of Navarro, condoled with his family and said that the mayor, whom it had earlier accused to be part of the “Big 4 logging lords” was not considered by the NPA as “an enemy that warrants a standing order or a recipient of a death sentence.”
“Navarro’s track record did not make him a legitimate military target, thus, no revolutionary punishment was executed against him,” Sanchez wrote.
Navarro had earlier denied being part of the alleged “Big Four.”
Navarro, the province’s first vice governor (1998 to 2001) who had served as OIC mayor of the town then known as San Vicente, from 1987 to 1988 and was elected mayor from 1988 to 1998 and again since 2007, was killed in an ambush by motorcycle-riding gunmen along a highway under construction here, shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The mayor’s driver and two police escorts were injured while two of the gunmen were killed by the mayor’s back-up escorts.
The driver of the TMX motorcycle and a back-up of two men on an XRM motorbike fled the scene, witnesses told MindaNews at the crime scene in Asuncion town on Wednesday.
The 62-year old Navarro, also Executive Vice President for Operations of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), was on his way to Tagum City from neighboring Laak town at around 8:30 a.m. when ambushed just as his vehicle was slowing down from the concrete portion of the road to the gravel portion.
Navarro’s killing came six days after Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA- Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command issued a four-paragraph press statement maintaining that Navarro is a member of the “Big 4 logging lords.”
In the statement dated March 23 but e-mailed to media outlets at 7:21 pm on March 22, the NPA accused Navarro of “lying as logging is rampant in Laak villages” and attached video clips of logs on the roadside allegedly taken from villages in Laak.
The statement said Navarro had “attempted to absolve himself by saying that Laak was merely a transit point of trucks coming from the boundary of Agusan del Sur, site of logging operations” and that village officials informed them of Navarro’s alleged “direct participation in the logging activities.”
“For as long as local reactionaries like Navarro continue to make big business out of the remaining forest resources, the NPA will impose measures to protect the environment and peasants, Lumads and masses who suffer from the effects of rampant logging. Fascist troops who continue to violate human rights of peasants while plundering the forests are legitimate targets,” the statement read.
Francisco has yet to issue a statement on the mayor’s killing.
“Not a legitimate target”
Sanchez’ May 29 statement said Navarro, whom it described as a “long-time politician whose area covers territories of the People’s Democratic Government in Compostela Valley,” had “cooperated with comrades and in many ways (had) demonstrated actions that point to his recognition of the revolutionary cause.”
But Sanchez alleged that in the last few years, Navarro’s “business interest in logging and agribusiness expansion” increased and that the NPA had “repeatedly warned him of his increasing anti-people activities.”
“Navarro had merely ignored these warnings, thus, forcing the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command to caution him publicly against wanton logging, militarization and the attendant human rights abuses that occur during these operations,” Sanchez wrote.
Despite the warnings from the sub-regional command of the NPA, Sanchez said, “there are no strong grounds showing Navarro’s grave offenses against the revolutionary movement that would necessitate the People’s Democratic Government to hand down the maximum penalty of capital punishment.”
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy told MindaNews he is still “waiting for the police report” on the slain killers and their affiliation. (MindaNews)