For the second time in just over a year, a barangay councilor survived an ambush by a suspected splinter faction of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Dario Batoon, a councilor of Cabacnitan, Batuan, sustained a gunshot wound in his right leg after he and two farmhands, Arnulfo Bacog and Ruel Anub, were shot at by a four-man armed group at the victim’s farm in a remote area of the village on Tuesday morning, said Corporal Julius Eulogio of the Batuan Police Station.
The same suspects who allegedly shot at Batoon and five others in September, 2018 were believed to have been behind the recent attack. The gunmen in both attacks were identified as Gregorio Budiongan and Leo Hingpit. The duo was with two other suspects, “Sonny Boy” and Nito Pahal, during the Tuesday ambush, Eulogio added.
Budiongan and Hingpit have been charged with murder for allegedly killing Batoon’s older brother, Primo, in 2017 which started the longstanding conflict.
According to Eulogio, Batoon, Bacog and Anub were harvesting eggplants when the gunmen shot at them from higher ground. The trio then crouched and hid, but they were still able to identify the shooters who they have long known given that they are from the same village.
“Pag first g’yud na buto, hing ligid ni si kagawad. Ang iya pung mga kauban hing kamang. Pero na-igo g’yud siya [Batoon] kay ga sige-man og pabuto. Single shot, single shot ra kay dili man ingon og girapido sila sa kontra,” he said.
Police meanwhile were not able to find spent shells at the crime scene but noted that the suspects may have only been using short firearms based on Batoon’s wound.
“Wala mi nahipos na basiyo pagpangita gahapon kay accordingly kining mga tawhana og motira daw ni magbutang ni sila og mura’g sako aron ang mga basiyo di manglagput,” he added. “Naa tay na-storya na mga former nila na kauban na ngana kuno ang technique aron di makuha ning mga bala.”
Batoon was taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment but was in stable condition while his farmhands were uninjured.
According to Eulogio, information they gathered indicated that Budiongan and Hingpit joined the NPA and underwent training in Batuan earlier this year.
They were believed to have been once part of the group of suspected high-ranking NPA commander Domingo “Cobra” Compoc but were told to leave when the rebels found out that pending arrest warrants were issued against Budiongan and Hingpit for murder.
“Ang atong last na nakuha na impormasyon nga wala na kuno ni sila gi-uban sa taga pikas kay nahibaw-an na dunay silay warrant mao ng nabuwag ni sila sa grupo mao naghimo pud ni sila og ilahang grupo pero nagpa-membro g’yud kuno ni sila sa pikas within this year,” said Eulogio.
Police meanwhile are looking into the possibility that Budiongan and Hingpit’s group was the one which figured in a brief gunfight against state troopers last month in the nearby village of Rizal.
Earlier reports indicated that the Philippine Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion clashed with around four armed men in the hinterlands of Rizal.
However, Eulogio said that they were still continuing investigations to determine if the duo’s group indeed engaged Army soldiers in a gunfight.
Police have noted that Budiongan and Hingpit’s group remained elusive due to their familiarization of the terrain in the forested hinterlands of Batuan and surrounding towns.
Bohol has been considered insurgency-free for almost a decade.
There have been numerous reported sightings of unidentified armed men across Bohol in recent years but authorities have maintained that these were at insignificant levels. (A. Doydora)