BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Survivors and families of victims of a massacre perpetrated by the New People’s Army in January 27, 2013, was commemorated yesterday at the site in Brgy.Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental, attended by town officials led by Mayor Alme Rhumyla Nicor-Mangilimutan.
Mangilimutan said she is hoping and praying that it will not happen again in La Castellana, or any parts of the province.
The incident will serve as a reminder to the people of barangay Puso and La Castellana, as a whole, that they are “the greatest contributor when it comes to stabilization of peace and order,” she stressed.
Mangilimutan said that the people should unite against those who are exploiting them.
She also said the 9th year commemoration of the incident will also send a strong signal to the perpetrators on how painfullosing members of their family is in such a tragic incident.
Eight civilians, including some members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) and a policeman died, while 12 others were injuredin the massacre. The NPAclaimed and justified that policemanon board the cargo truck opened fire at them first.
Mangilimutan said that some BPAT members and witnesses are afraid to help in the prosecution of the suspects, because of fear. “You have to gain their trust again,” she stressed.
Nine years after the incident, the families of the victims and survivors have yet to attain justice, Mangilimutan admitted. Shehowever noted that a slow change in the attitude of residents in the barangay, after the local government brought desired basic government services at their doorsteps, such as infrastructure projects and livelihood opportunities, among others.
In response to the clamor of barangay officials and residents as well, Mangilimutan said that an Army outpost will be established in the barangay, on a 5,000-square meter lot donated by a landowner, admitting that its hinterland sitios are still being used as gateway for local insurgents to cross to neighboring places.
The rites were also attended by representatives of various government security agencies, including Col. Michael Samson, deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, Lt. Col. Melvin Flores, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, PLt. Col. John Mocyat, commander of the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, and Liza Umpar of the Regional Task Force- Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Mangilimutan and Umpar led the distribution of food packs to the Puso massacre survivors and families of the victims, which was preceded by a mass at the site officiated by Fr. Fernan Fernandez.*