MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 10 July) – Two of the three suspects tagged in the slaying of Impasug-ong mayor Mario Okinlay were former rebels who surrendered in 2011 and received government assistance in 2012 and 2013, files from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process showed.
The files obtained from a MindaNews source showed that Joven Yanggo received P15,000 from the provincial government in February 2012 and P55,000 from the OPAPP in July 2013. His brother, Efren, another suspect in the case, also received P15,000 from the provincial government and P50,000 from OPAPP in that period.
Lawyer Alberto Lagamon, a member of the Bukidnon provincial board, said Wednesday the killing of Okinlay last week is opening doors on a possible review of the government reintegration program for former rebels.
Lagamon, chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committee on peace and order, told MindaNews an inquiry is ongoing on the matter after police filed complaints against the three suspects on Monday. The murder charges, docketed under NPS No.X-01-INV-146-00231, have been filed on Monday against the three suspects before the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Malaybalay City.
Police identified the Yanggo brothers and a certain Ryan Daluniag as suspects. The three were named by Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. in his message during the peace rally held in the Impasug-ong gymnasium Monday. But Zubiri was silent about the suspects in his weekly radio program “Isumbong Mo Kay (Report it to the) Governor” Wednesday morning.
Senior Supt. Glenn dela Torre, Bukidnon PNP provincial director, confirmed in the hearing that Joven Yanggo is a former rebel who “surrendered in 2012”. Another police official confirmed in the hearing that both Yanggos surrendered in January 2011.
Lagamon said if it is true that the Yanggos previously surrendered and were the ones identified to be behind the killing, “then it is about time to hold a review of the government’s reintegration program.”
He added that further hearings will venture into seeking clarification on how the brothers deflected back to the communist rebels if they have indeed surrendered before and received assistance from government.
Lawyer Jay Albarece, chair of the SP committee on laws and rules, said the program must be examined as to how public funds are used and if it is effective.
“There were questions on the qualifications of those who surrender like some of them were eventually identified as not rebels,” he added.
The provincial government reported a total of 53 former rebels who surrendered to the fold of government Wednesday in formal rites at the Kaamulan Folk Arts Theater. Seven of the former rebels received P20,000 each from the provincial government for turning in serviceable firearms and the rest, identified as “militia,” received P2,000 each.
Lagamon said one of the purposes of the hearing last Tuesday was to ask the police about how they arrived at identifying the suspects.
“So far, based on the facts they presented, they have not provided us with enough information yet to answer our question,” Lagamon said. Hearings and regular sessions at the SP are set Monday, but it was moved to Tuesday to give way for the peace rally held in Impasug-ong.
Lagamon said they are inviting the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Okinlay, which Dela Torre said was the one who pinpointed the three suspects after their investigation.
“We felt there was insufficient information given,” Albarece said.
Dela Torre, when pressed for clarifications by board members, said police witnesses identified the suspects as those who ambushed Okinlay.
Vice Governor Alex Calingasan, who was in the hearing, stressed the same point on the process how the police arrived at the suspects identity.
“It is important that we know how they were identified. We thought they already surrendered…. How do we know if they are not fall guys?” he added. “The communists may even laugh at us if that is so.” Dela Torre said the suspects were identified based on the results of the regional police investigation task force.
Calingasan advocated that “we should be hard against them (rebels)” but did not specify his proposed moves when asked. During the peace rally, he pointed out that the government should not only use anti-poverty to combat insurgency because poverty is not just the rebels’ agenda. He stressed that the rebels want a “government takeover.”
Calingasan called for a change in strategy and approach, “not poverty alleviation.”
Impasug-ong municipal councilor Julia Okinlay, the mayor’s widow, said the slaying was “overkill.” The mayor suffered 12 gunshot wounds.
Mrs. Okinlay said her husband’s death should be a wakeup call for the government to strengthen its programs for peace and order.
She admitted last Monday that she was still full of anger but their family wanted “true justice.”
“We don’t need it to be speedy that will turn out to be wrong,” she added.
Mrs. Okinlay cited that the mayor’s death serves as an inspiration for her to continue serving the people and continue his legacy.
She challenged the rebel commanders to face her and tell her about the mayor’s faults.
Okinlay spoke in a jampacked gymnasium with a capacity of 5,000, where at its entrance was a tarpaulin with a photo of the slain mayor and a biblical quotation from Jeremiah: “This man should not be sentenced to death.”
Scores of placards, used during the march before the rally, adorned the fence fronting the gymnasium.
At the entrance gate, a placard saying “We love you Mayor Mario” greeted the public. The same was printed on shirts worn by the mayor’s family and supporters. But most of the placards called for justice for the mayor’s slaying, some blaming the NPA. Some placards thanked Mayor Okinlay for the progress he brought and some others encouraged the town folks to “continue with progress”.
Inside, residents from different barangays, the mayor’s kin and supporters, and local government officials from Bukidnon listened as different speakers took turns in giving emotional testimonies about the mayor, whose body lay in a well decorated casket and tent in the middle of the stage.
The program, which lasted for more than two hours, included emotional rendition of the mayor’s favorite songs, a candle-lighting activity, release of balloons, and the testimonies.
The NPA, who called him a “counter-revolutionary” who led an “oppressive” and “exploitative” rule in the town, owned the killing in a statement on July 3, a day after he was ambushed on the way back to the town proper from Brgy. Bontongon.
He led the town’s hatud serbisyo (service outreach) with different stakeholders in the village of 845 residents, 32 kilometers into the town’s remote areas. He was driving his own motorcycle, part of a convoy of motorcycles and vehicles when the hit men attacked from 29 feet away. Six policemen and 60 Army personnel were on guard at different locations at the time of the attack.