CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 05 October) — The alleged leader of the “Mangahat-Bagani” fighters, a paramilitary group allegedly responsible for the 2015 killing of an alternative school teacher and the burning of a Lumad school in Surigao del Sur, was killed along with two others in an ambush purportedly staged by the communist rebels on Sunday, the military said.
Lt. Kris Punzalan, 3rd Special Forces Battalion information officer, said that Hawudon Jomar Bucales, Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of Lianga town, Surigao del Sur, was killed by suspected New People’s Army rebels in the ambush in Sitio Mamsapranon, Barangay Banahao also in Lianga town.
Also killed in the ambush were Bucales’ companions identified as Alberto dela Peña and Artemio Muldez, he added.
Punzalan said that Bucales and six other companions were returning home after installing a Lumad leader in Barangay Banahao when the suspected rebels ambushed them.
”Bucales and his group fought back and were able to retreat but he went back to get his two (dead) companions. Unfortunately he was hit and died,” Punzalan said.
Bucales was tagged as the leader of the Mangahat-Bagani paramilitary group responsible for the killing of Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, and the burning of a Lumad school in Sitio Han-ayan, Diatagon town in Surigao del Sur on Sept 1, 2015.
The killing triggered a massive evacuation of Lumads, prompting Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and former Senator Teofisto Guingona III to conduct a two-day Senate investigation.
Pimentel and Guingona issued statements calling for the arrest of Bucales and another Lumad leader, Marcial Belandres, and the disbandment of the Mangahat-Bagani group whom they accused to have ties with the military.
Interviewed by MindaNews then, Bucales denied the accusation and offered a narrative to what had happened.
Bucales said that it started when his relatives led by a certain Bobby Tejero went back to the communist rebels, bringing with them five high-powered firearms from Datu Calpit Egua in October 2014.
He said Calpit, angered with the stolen rifles, armed the Lumads and ordered the burning of the Lumad school and the killing of Samarca.
Bucales said that Calpit, who is his uncle, is the richest among the datus (tribal chieftains), operating a gold mining site in the boundary of Barangay La Purisima in Prosperidad town and Barangay San Juan in Bayugan town, all in Agusan del Sur.