TACLOBAN CITY — Communist rebels owned up to the attack on a former Samar town mayor who allegedly committed crimes against the people, mainly corruption, during his tenure in office.
In a press statement, New People’s Army’s (NPA) Arnulfo Ortiz Command, which largely operates in Samar province, said the attack on Ananias Rebato, former mayor of San Jose de Buan town, was the rebels’ attempt to mete out the death penalty on him.
The 57-year-old former mayor was shot several times by four assailants around 1 a.m. on Tuesday while he was boarding his vehicle after attending a fiesta in the village of Baclayon, 7 kilometers from San Jose de Buan.
His close-in bodyguard and nephew, Severino Tesoro, 24, was killed.
The other bodyguards of Rebato were able to fire back, killing one of the attackers.
Rebato, longtime mayor of San Jose de Buan, an impoverished town tagged as an insurgency hotbed, was believed to be planning to run for vice mayor next year, his political comeback.
Rebato was brought to a hospital in Tacloban City. He was said to be already out of danger.
According to the NPA group, Rebato was involved in counterrevolutionary activities like maintaining a private army “aimed at harassing suspected NPA members and sympathizers.”
The NPA also claimed Rebato was behind the abduction of a farmer in the village of San Nicolas in San Jose de Buan.
Rebels claimed that Rebato holds the rank of first lieutenant in the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, making him a legitimate rebel target.
Rebato, the NPA said, “spearheaded the building of a vast intelligence network” against rebels that targeted farmers.
“He openly campaigned for the surrender of peasants” who would be presented as NPA members who surrendered, the NPA statement said.
Rebels also accused Rebato of rampant corruption and sexual harassment of women during his term as mayor from 2007 to 2016.
But Capt. Francis Agno, spokesperson for the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar province, dismissed the NPA claims.
Rebato, according to Agno, was not a military asset.
The rebels were angry at Rebato because “he never gave in to them as he chose to coordinate with the military and police,” Agno said in a phone interview.
Agno said he personally knew Rebato because he had been assigned to San Jose de Buan from 2012 to 2014 during Rebato’s tenure as mayor.
“The former mayor was a good man,” Agno said.
“He never committed any atrocities against his people,” Agno added.
He said the NPA group was forced to admit the attempt to kill Rebato because a witness was able to identify the slain assailant as a member of the NPA.
“They are just making up these issues against the former mayor after it was established that one of the perpetrators was an NPA member,” Agno said.
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