Civilian casualties or Abu-linked? PNP probes role of slain Melloria kin

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Civilian casualties or Abu-linked? PNP probes role of slain Melloria kin

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The Petalcos, a couple in their 60s and longtime residents of Barangay Napo, Inabanga, were briefly tagged as Abu Sayyaf members after their lifeless bodies laid among those of bandits gunned down by government troops in the said village on April 11.

The claim against the elderly couple had since been contested by their neighbors and family.

However, almost a month after the bloody encounter that shook an entire province, the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Constancio Petalco, 65, and wife Crisenta still puzzled authorities.

According to Bohol Provincial Police Office director Sr. Supt. Felipe Natividad, they have not yet determined whether the Petalcos were civilian casualties or had links to the band of terrorists who stayed at their house.

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Authorities had noted that some of the bandits made their stand against advancing government troops near the Petalcos’ home during an overnight siege in the remote village.

Natividad said that the police still continued its deep probe on the couple’s death, while he pointed out that Constancio was the uncle of slain Abu Sayyaf and Napo native Joselito Melloria, the suspected guide of the bandits during their incursion into the province last month.

Since the Petalcos turned up dead following the clash which also killed three soldiers, a policeman and four suspected bandits, villagers of the encounter site refuted claims that the couple had involvement in the militant group’s activities.

Residents including Napo village chief Columbo Estoce said that the Petalcos were casualties caught in the crossfire of the intense gun battle between the extremists and security forces.

Accounts gathered by authorities indicated that the elderly couple was told to evacuate prior to the clash but they had refused to leave and were left at the encounter site as the firefight erupted.

However, residents had noted that Crisenta was ill which may have been among reasons why the couple did not leave their home.

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The couple’s family also expressed strong belief that the two were innocent and had no connection with the dreaded terrorist group.

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Earlier, Capt. Jojo Mascarinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, said that the Petalcos may had been linked to the Abu Sayyaf as the bandits stayed at their house and were reportedly fed by the couple.

Meanwhile, Natividad made an assurance that the police is fairly conducting the continued investigation on the Petalcos’ deaths. (Allen Doydora)

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