NPA owns death of Malaybalay village chief

The rebel group's Rexan Perez Command, in a statement read over Radio Mindanao Network's "Straight to the Point" program, claimed it ordered the death of Patpat barangay chair Ciriaco Ganahon, 35.

Ganahon was killed in an ambush around 6:30 a.m. last Friday on his way to his farm.

Police Superintendent Orlando Beñas, Malaybalay PNP officer-in-charge, told MindaNews that they are looking at two other angles: the victim's alleged land grabbing reputation and personal grudge.

The Malaybalay City Prosecution Office dismissed rape charges against Ganahon in a decision in January and denied a motion for recommendation and reinvestigation on the basis of errors and technicalities.

The women's group Gabriela condemned the reported rape and subsequent dismissal at the prosecution level.   

According to the NPA statement, reportedly signed by North-Central Mindanao spokesperson Mamerto Bagani on February 17, the rebel group's Front 89 Committee found Ganahon “guilty” of raping two women. He was also found “guilty” for the death of a man from Patpat due to a land dispute, and another over allegations he was involved in animal theft and other unlawful acts.

The statement quoted Bagani warning other criminals they will be next on the list if they don't stop committing crimes. "Ask forgiveness and stop doing wrong," Bagani was quoted as saying.

Ganahon is the third barangay chair here whose death was owned by the NPA. In the past two years, it has claimed responsibility for the death of the village chiefs in Can-ayan and Silae.

Local reporters are awaiting a live interview with an official from the rebel command. The rebels claimed earlier deaths through an interview, not a letter.

According to the blotter report of Ganahon's death, three unidentified gunmen fired at him seven meters away along an intersection in Sitio Kabakahan. The crime scene was 150 meters away from his farm where a harvest was scheduled.

Ganahon, driving the barangay's multi-cab rescue vehicle, sustained multiple gunshots.

Beñas, who led a police team who responded to the crime scene, said Ganahon was killed "as if the killer was really very angry.”

Police recovered 10 empty shells of 5.56 mm bullets fired from M16 rifles.

Beñas said the victim's wallet, cellular phone and hand held radio were not recovered. He said they will file charges against the killers.  

Malaybalay police named 12 barangays considered NPA infested or where there are sightings.

The barangays include mostly those in Upper Pulangui area along the city's border with Agusan del Sur where heavy fighting happened a year ago,. 

The barangays have since been included in the police's list of areas of concern for the May 2007 elections.