By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Benjie B. Talisic, Carla P. Gomez, Morexette Marie B. Erram, Nestle L. Semilla July 22,2017 - 11:51 PM


Flags in Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental are flown at half-staff. The mood is somber and policemen are still in disbelief.

“We never thought something as bad as this will happen. We treat each other as brothers, and it is so hard to accept that they are gone,” SPO2 Francisco Pepilona, one of the city’s 60 policemen, told Cebu Daily News, in Cebuano.

At past 1 p.m. on Saturday, the casket bearing the body of Supt. Arnel Arpon, the city’s chief of police, was brought to the Guihulngan Police Station where the wake is being held.

The bodies of SPO2 Nicasio Tabilon, SPO1 Jesael Ancheta, PO2 Alvin Paul Bolandres, PO2 Alfredo Dunque and SPO2 Teovic Agusto were expected to follow.

No funeral date has been set yet.

The six policemen and a civilian, Michael Jambalos, were killed in an ambush staged by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels along a winding road in the mountain village of Magsaysay in Guihulngan City on Friday morning.

Three other policemen— SPO4 Jerome Delara, PO2 Jorie Maribao and PO3 Jordan Balderas — were wounded.

They were brought to a hospital in the capital city of Dumaguete and given each a Wounded Personnel Medal.

Arpon led his men in responding to an earlier ambush of Guihulngan City Councilor Edison Dela Rita.

Dela Rita and his driver, who were onboard a motorcycle, survived the attack although a bullet graced the councilor’s head. Jambalos, the councilor’s bodyguard, who was riding in another motorcycle, was killed.

Crying out in sorrow

In a statement, Guihulngan City Legal Officer Karen Lisette Trinidad-Molas, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes, condemned the “senseless murder and excessive force used upon our valiant members of the Guihulngan Police Station.”

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) are men of war. They are peace keepers. They were merely there to save a life, very sadly, at the expense of their own. It has been shown today that there are still people who do not have the most basic respect for human life,” the lawyer said.

Mayor Reyes, she said, is currently in an official visit to Baraboo City in Wisconsin to observe its successful tourism industry.

After the ambush incident last Friday, Molas said they immediately cancelled classes and work to protect their constituents.

“We cry out in sorrow and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our fallen heroes. We cannot thank them enough for their bravery. They exemplified ‘public service above self’ until the very end,” she said.


Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was expected in the city yesterday to visit the wake of the slain policemen but it did not push through. No definite schedule has been given yet when would be the visit said Senior Supt. Henry Biñas, Negros Oriental provincial police director.

“We are conducting an in-depth investigation on the incident and we are taking into consideration all possibilities,” he said.

Biñas admitted that one of the angles investigators were looking into was the involvement of Dela Rita in the ambush plot.

“We are not discounting the possibility that the city councilor was just making a scenario and that the policemen were the real targets,” Biñas said.

Dela Rita, in an interview over radio dyHB in Bacolod City on Saturday, denied insinuations that he was part of the plan to kill the policemen.

He denied having any links to the NPA. (separate story on page 2)

‘Barbaric acts’

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, believed the NPA was bent on terrorizing Negros Island.

He cited the series of killings by communist insurgents in Negros that claimed the lives of a sugar planter and his driver in Calatrava town and a leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army in Don Salvador Benedicto town, both in Negros Occidental; and of a former Army soldier in Canlaon City in Negros Oriental.

On Thursday, an encounter also took place between a group of NPA rebels and troopers of the 62nd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Marcelo, Calatrava town.

Based on their investigation, Aying said there are politicians helping the rebel group to get even with their political opponents.

He said the atrocities will continue if security forces and the public will not be vigilant.

Col. Elizer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the “barbaric acts” of the rebels will not go unpunished.

“We will continue to conduct hot pursuit operations to give justice to our law enforcers who are simply performing their duties,” he said.

“These actions of the NPA simply show their true nature, that they are indeed terrorists and that they continue to deceive the people to advance their selfish interest,” he added.

Molas, meanwhile, said they were grateful to the immediate response from the police and the military to thwart other possible rebel attacks in Guihulngan City.

“Let us pray together and move forward to prevent a similar tragedy from happening ever again. We only want peace and nothing more,” she said.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo condemned the attacks and looked into the possibility of providing assistance to families of the casualties.

Degamo, however, stressed that the attack was an isolated case and that the province remains generally peaceful.


SPO2 Pepilona of the Guihulngan Police Station said the death of their colleagues caused them so much pain.

“We are really very sad. Six of them died including our police chief. We are affected. But this incident should not stop us from doing what we are supposed to do,” he said.

“We are not afraid to die. We made a promise that as police officers, we are ready to offer our lives for the people and for our country,” he added.
Pepilona described their slain police chief as a good leader.

“He was a real leader, a good one. He could have stayed in our office but he chose to go out and accompany his men. He was a brave commander,” he said.

Arpon was leading his men in formation at the Guihulngan City Police Office early morning last Friday when they received a report that Dela Rita was attacked by armed men in Barangay Magsaysay.

Arpon and 14 other policemen immediately headed to the area onboard a police patrol vehicle and motorcycles but before they reached the site where Dela Rita was waylaid, they were also ambushed by the same group of armed men positioned on a hilly side of the road.

Police said about 60 rebels took part in the ambush.

Asked if the government must pursue the peace talks with the NPA, Pepilona paused for a moment before he responded in a quivering voice: “What for? Will peace talks solve the problem?”

Pepilona eventually calmed down and said they will support anything that would lead to peace.

“All we want now is peace, not just for Guihulngan City but for the rest of the country,” he added.

Alert up in Cebu

In Cebu, Senior Supt. Eric Noble, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office, directed all police stations, particularly in the western part of Cebu to be on alert.

Guihulngan City is about an hour by boat from the Tangil Wharf in Dumanjug town in western Cebu.

Noble said he directed all police chiefs to intensify patrols and random checkpoints in key areas in the province of Cebu.

“We already alerted all our policemen because there is a possibility that the NPA will cross to Cebu,” he said.

Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the Armed Forces Central Command (Centcom) based in Cebu City, said they have deployed troops from the 303rd Infantry Brigade and the 79 Infantry Battalion to help state forces on Negros Island go after the rebels.

Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, Centcom commander, strongly denounced the attack in Guihulngan City.

“If the NPA and their political patrons, the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), think that they did a good job in ambushing the police in Guihulngan, then they are doing a disservice to the Filipino people,” he said in a statement.

“The PNP responded to a call for help from a citizen. With what they did, the efficiency of police service to our people will be affected,” he added.


Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale called on to people in Cebu not to be complacent and help authorities in fighting the rebels.

She said the proactive security measures put in place by the Cebu provincial policemen is a manifestation that law enforcers are not taking the NPA threat lightly.

“What our law enforcers are doing is a natural precautionary measure considering Guihulngan City’s proximity to Cebu. It is but a natural response which goes to show that we are indeed a step ahead on ensuring our security,” Magpale said.

But Cebu, she said, remains insurgent-free and is safe for everyone.

“So far, Cebu is safe. Our policemen have been very active, and that is really good,” said Magpale.

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