Ex-VP Guingona to NPA on mayor-wife’s ambush: Apology not enough

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – The New People’s Army has issued an apology for the ambush Saturday night of the convoy of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona, but his husband, former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr., wanted nothing less than for the revolutionary group to sanction those responsible for the attack.

Guingona, a prominent street parliamentarian during Martial Law, said he expects the NPA to conduct an investigation of the ambush that killed two of the mayor’s bodyguards in Barangay Capitulangan, Gingoog City.

“There has to be an investigation. Just like in any investigation find out the facts. Apply the principle of accountability. He who ordered that assault should be responsible. Not only to us but to their organization,” Guingona said in the press conference here on Monday.

The former vice president assured the National Democratic Front that his respect for the revolutionary movement has not changed despite the ambush of his wife and the killing of two of her aides.

“My personal friendship to some of its leaders will not be changed. We were saddened by what had happened and I would like to know the details that lead to this tragedy,” Guingona said.

The convoy of Mayor Guingona was fired upon by NPA rebels who set up a checkpoint made of bamboo poles in Capitulangan, some ten kilometers from Gingoog City.

President Benigno Aquino III, an ally of the Guingonas, ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to deploy an additional 500 soldiers to run after the NPA rebels who are busy setting up checkpoints in several areas to force candidates to coordinate with them when campaigning in villages that are under their influence.

Aquino issued the order during the political rally of the Liberal Party’s local candidates at the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center in this city Monday afternoon.

Mayor Guingona survived the ambush but was wounded in her right arm, buttocks and foot while two of her aides (not three as earlier reported) were killed by the rebels who were positioned on both sides of the road.

She underwent surgery at the Capitol University Hospital where doctors tried to fix her shattered right arm, according to her daughter, Marie.

Marie said her mother was conscious and was stable after the operation. “She asked for food because she was very hungry after the operation.”

Mayor Guingona is on her third term. Marie is running for mayor of Gingoog under the LP.

NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos has apologized to the Guingonas saying the NPA unit was only trying to stop the convoy to disarm the mayor’s bodyguards.

Madlos said the rebels fired at the convoy after the mayor’s bodyguards opened fire and tried to ram the bamboo checkpoint of the NPA.

He said they have repeatedly warned the mayor not to bring armed bodyguards in her campaign sorties in the hinterland villages in Gingoog City.

Calling the ambush an “an unfortunate incident”, Madlos said the NPA unit would not have stopped the convoy had they known that the lady mayor was traveling with it.

“We ask forgiveness from the Guingona family. It was not our intention to hurt Mayor Guingona,” Madlos told a local radio station here Sunday.

In a statement emailed to news organizations, the NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Command said they recognize the “significant contribution” of the former vice president to the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and his nationalist stand on various issues.

As senator, Teofisto Guingona III voted against the continued stay of US military bases in the country.

He was also a member of the first government panel that negotiated peace with the NDF from 1986 until the early part of 1987. Talks were aborted however after the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre which left 14 protesting farmers dead near Malacanang.

Regional NPA spokesperson Allan Juanito promised they would indemnify the heirs of the civilian aides identified as brothers Tomas and Nestor Velasco who died in the attack.

Juanito said they regretted that Guingona was wounded and they would not have stopped the convoy had they known that the lady mayor was riding in the lead vehicle.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said law enforcers are now pursuing the group responsible for the attack.

“We have already been told that the army’s 58th Infantry Battalion will be spearheading the investigation,” Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday.

The official also appealed to politicians who are campaigning for the May 13 elections to reject the reported demand of the rebel group to pay “permit-to-campaign” fees.

“Again, we have already mentioned to our PNP (Philippine National Police) and also to our politicians who are campaigning not to give in to the demands of the CPP-NPA-NDF. This scheme is not tolerated under our system of government,” he said.

“The AFP is fully aware and they have taken steps to ensure that the politicians are spared from all this permit to campaign,” Lacierda said.

“Now, we would like to ask the local candidates to inform us of such demands, and we will let AFP units go and make sure that there are no NPA checkpoints. This is not tolerated under this system of government,” he added. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)