MNLF official says alleged leader of Matalam attack one of their own

Fred Edillor, secretary-general of the Sebangan Kutawato (North Cotabato) State Revolutionary Committee (SKSRC) of the MNLF, was referring to Commander Sammy Lulos.

Lulos, according to police reports, led the attack on April 8 in Sitio Rizal in Barangay New Abra Matalam that killed Romulo Hernandez, 50, and his sons Dennis, 26, and Ryan, 14, and Johnrel Untal.

Authorities recovered Untal’s body at a grassy lot some 30 meters away from Romulo’s house.

After killing the victims the attackers reportedly set on fire the houses of Dennis and Ryan.
Witnesses, including Virgilia, Romulo’s widow, affirmed the reports in their affidavits.

Senior Insp. Elias Colonia of Matalam police said the affidavits will be used as bases for the filing of multiple murder charges against Lulos and 40 of his men.

Edillor, however, refused to believe Lulos could do such “dreadful thing.”

“I know the guy.  Yes, he is a member of our group.   But I don’t think he has that character to kill,” said Edillor in a phone interview, adding the MNLF did not order the assault.

Colonia, citing as basis witnesses’ accounts, said the attack was caused by ‘long, deep seated’ land conflict.

Lulos reportedly claimed that vast lands in Sitio Rizal being cultivated by the Hernandez family mostly belong to his relatives.

Colonia said the Hernandez family started tilling the land in 2000, at least two decades after Lulos and his relatives settled in the area.

Lulos and his relatives were driven out from the lands when armed fighting erupted in the early 80s.

“So when the Hernandez family was able to get a certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2008, it earned the ire of Commander Lulos.

The commander then started warning the family and their relatives to vacate the land,” Colonia said.
Supt. Renato Hiso, officer-in-charge of North Cotabato police, has already ordered a manhunt for Lulos and his men, who are believed to be hiding at the boundary of Kabacan and Matalam towns in North Cotabato. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)