Ex-NPA chieftain slain
- Matthew Estabillo, Jaime Laude () - January 24, 2003 - 12:00am
Romulo Kintanar, former head of the New People’s Army (NPA), was felled by assassins’ bullets inside a Japanese restaurant at the Quezon City Memorial Circle yesterday afternoon.

Two unidentified gunmen fired at Kintanar, hitting him eight times in different parts of the body, killing him instantaneously. Two other men were wounded in the attack.

The fatal shots penetrated Kintanar’s lungs and heart, said Dr. Vladimir Villaseñor, head of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s medico-legal division.

Witnesses said Kintanar and his three companions had just finished eating lunch at the Kamameshi House restaurant at the Quezon City Circle when the two gunmen, who posed as customers, approached their table at about 1:30 p.m., casually pulled out their firearms and opened fire.

Kintanar, 52, was said to be the head of security at the Bureau of Immigration and a consultant at the National Electrification Administration.

The two other victims in the shooting were identified as Edward Ruiz and Ricky Beltran, who sustained gunshot wounds and are currently confined at the Philippine Heart Center.

Ruiz and Beltran, police said, were not Kintanar’s companions and were hit by stray bullets.

A police source said Kintanar could have recognized his killers and tried to run away, which caused the injuries sustained by Ruiz and Beltran. When he collapsed on the floor after sustaining bullet wounds, one of the suspects shot him again to make sure he was dead.

None of Kintanar’s three companions were hurt. They scampered in different directions during the incident. The victim’s widow, Joy, refused to be interviewed by reporters. She was not with him at the time.

Waiter Macario Pena, 40, said Kintanar was a regular customer at the restaurant. He and his companions arrived at about 12:30 p.m. while the suspects went in half an hour later.

The suspects were described as men in their late thirties. One of the gunmen was said to be of medium build and wearing a white shirt. One suspect was armed with a caliber .45 automatic while the other had a 9-mm. pistol.

Police Superintendent Raul Medina said that a slug of one of the firearms used and around 13 empty shells were recovered from the scene. Robbery was ruled out as the motive for the killing as none of Kintanar’s valuables were missing.

He was killed a few hours after he went to Camp Crame’s Firearms and Explosives Division to follow up papers for his firearm, and two days after he and fellow former communist leader Arturo Tabara met with PNP chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
Guests at NCRPO
Kintanar and Tabara were among the guests during the 12th founding anniversary of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) last Tuesday.

The two former communist leaders apparently distanced themselves from Ebdane, eating their lunch at a table 100 meters away from the NCRPO grandstand. Ebdane, NCRPO chief Deputy Director General Reynaldo Velasco and other top ranking PNP officials ate lunch on the stage.

After lunch, Chief Superintendent Vidal Querol, chief of the PNP directorate for operations, apparently summoned by Ebdane, arrived.

Ebdane, Querol, Kintanar, and Tabara then talked for more or less 30 minutes. Reporters observed the four to be laughing while in conversation.

It was not known, however, what topic was discussed by Ebdane and Querol with the former communist leaders. They left on board a vehicle and joined the convoy of Ebdane out of the camp.

Querol, in a telephone interview, refused to divulge the main topic of the conversation between him and the two former communist leaders.

"I was shocked (upon hearing about his death). That was nothing significant," Querol said, referring to his last meeting with Kintanar.

He added that "let us just let the investigation take its course."
Hit list
Kintanar and Tabara are among the four former communist leaders allegedly sentenced to death by an NPA "people’s court" after they broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Tabara is allegedly the former head of the CPP Visayas Regional Commission and later helped found the Revolutionary Proletariat Army (RPA).

Also in the alleged NPA assassination list is Ricardo Reyes, then a central leader in Siglaya, one of the new leftist groups that broke away from the CPP, and Felimon "Popoy" Lagman, alias Carlos Forte, secretary of the Manila-Rizal Regional Commission of the CPP.

Lagman was gunned down at the University of the Philippines campus in February 2001 by yet unidentified assailants.

At the time of his death, Kintanar was also the consultant in peace talks between the RPA-Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) and the government.

In an interview with ABS-CBN a few hours before he was fatally shot, Kintanar said the RPA-ABB is "sincere" in advancing the peace process because they believe this is a time for reform, not for revolution.

He added that what the RPA-ABB and government agreed upon may be implemented soon.

He noted that if the government is able to respond to the needs of members of the CPP-NPA and RPA-ABB, 90 percent of whom are farmers and blue-collar workers, then armed struggle will be an insignificant force.

An investigator who asked for anonymity told The STAR that NPA rebels who despised Kintanar for leaving the group "might have had a hand in the killing." Central Police District (CPD) investigators said they are still looking at other possible suspects and motives.

According to CPD intelligence head Chief Inspector Rodolfo Jaraza, Kintanar "was shot at point-blank range. The farthest the suspect could have been was about five meters. They were seated at a table opposite that of Kintanar’s. He sustained about five bullet wounds."

CPD director Senior Superintendent Napoleon Castro said Kintanar has been "under threat" prior to his assassination.

According to Castro, Kintanar informed an intelligence officer based at Camp Crame about the threat.

Investigators are looking into the high probability that Kintanar’s former comrades in the NPA are behind the murder.

"They made sure that he was dead. Two gunmen fired their handguns, causing multiple gunshot wounds in different parts of his body," Castro said.

Police are also looking for the Kintanar’s missing wallet, which may lead probers to more clues on the killing.

Castro said his investigators will question Ruiz and Beltran, who denied knowing Kintanar.

"We were baffled why Kintanar’s companions claimed they do not know him, when they ate with him at table," he said. Kintanar and his companions had just ordered cups of tea before the two gunmen shot him.

The police released an artist’s sketch of one of the assailants last night based on the description of a waiter who witnessed the incident.

Castro said the killing bore the signature of the NPA.

"Sa kilusan pag ikaw ay sumurender, it is a ‘killable’ offense. Sa mga naghudas, ang parusa ay kamatayan (Death is the punishment for traitors)," he said.

Castro added that the killing was very well-planned because the gunmen knew Kintanar’s favorite hangout.

Police are still looking for other witnesses who could provide a good description of the second gunman.

Sources in the military and police intelligence community said Kintanar has been the target of a liquidation mission of the National Partisan Command of the CPP.

"As early as the middle of last year, he was warned of the assassination plot against him," sources said, referring to the CPP-NPA plot to launch high-profile assassinations against ranking government officials and top NPA leaders now working with the government.

Sources added that Kintanar has been accused by CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison of hatching an assassination plot against him in Brussels, Belgium.

"Yan ang lumalabas na kasalanan niya kaya nag-order si Sison na unahan siya," another source told The STAR, saying that Sison may have just wanted to beat Kintanar to it.

Aside from Kintanar, several ranking government officials — including presidential chief of staff Rigoberto Tiglao — are also being targeted by the NPA liquidation squad, reportedly headed by a certain Leo Velasco.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) vowed to help in solving the murder of Kintanar.

NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco said it is part of the mandate of the bureau to assist the PNP in information-gathering for the immediate solution of the case.

"It’s automatic for the bureau to monitor developments (in the case) and contribute to the probe," Wycoco said.

Ex-comrades saddened

Nilo dela Cruz, Kintanar’s comrade in the CPP-NPA for almost three decades, was saddened by Kintanar’s assassination.

He said the police should not speculate on Kintanar’s killers.

"If indeed it was the handiwork of the NPA, then they should be responsible enough to admit it," he said.

Dela Cruz, alias Ka Sergio Romero, said that he, too, has been one of the NPA’s targets after he left the guerrilla movement several years ago but added "that’s part of our life."

One of Kintanar’s former comrade-at-arms, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo condemned Kintanar’s ambush-slaying.

"Malapit kong kaibigan iyan, kaya apektado ako. Di ko alam kung sino ang may kagagawan ng krimen, mahirap magbigay ng ispekulasyon sa ngayon," he told reporters. (He was a close friend so I’m also affected. It’s hard to speculate on who killed him).

Ocampo said he last saw Kintanar two years ago at the Dasmariñas Village, Makati City residence of Speaker De Venecia. Kintanar was then with his uncle, Cebu Rep. Simeon Kintanar.

Ocampo said that as far as he knew, Kintanar served as De Venecia’s close-in security when he ran for office during the presidential campaign in 1998.

However, Noel Albano, De Venecia’s spokesman, said the former NPA commander did not serve the Speaker as a security aide nor as a consultant.
New Year’s Eve talk
In Davao City, Kintanar’s short talk with his younger brother Jing Kintanar, 46, turned out to be the last one they would have.

"All he asked was how I was and he even told me to take care always. Those were his last words to me. We just talked on the phone. He called up on New Year’s Eve," Jing told The STAR.

The Kintanars are natives of this city. Their ancestral house, which was turned into an apartment and boarding house, stands at the corner of Bonifacio and Artiaga Streets.

Only Jing and another brother, Raymond, are the ones living in the house since Kintanar and their four sisters opted to stay in Manila.

"I remember that the last time he visited our house here was when he was campaigning for Speaker Jose de Venecia, when he ran for president in 1998," Jing said.

He recalled that the only times they saw each other was when Jing would go to Manila, and only when Kintanar was available.

"He was always so busy he did not have time for us to talk," Jing said.

Raymond immediately flew to Manila yesterday upon hearing of his brother’s death while Jing said he would join other family members in a flight early this morning.

"We really did not have any premonition that it would happen to him. We did not expect it at all," Jing added.
Blanca case
Kintanar’s death will not affect the Nida Blanca murder case being investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"We must remember that Kintanar affirmed his affidavit, so his affidavit will be considered part of the evidence," State Prosecutor Mark Jalandoni told reporters.

Kintanar, who was one of the 27 witnesses the NBI and the PNP presented to the DOJ, stated in his August 2002 affidavit that he wrote Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo about main suspect Philip Medel’s alleged participation in the crime on Nov. 11, 2001, just four days after the murder took place.

Kintanar added that this was marked as "Evidence Y" by the NBI and the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group when it submitted the paper to the DOJ on July 17, 2002.

Sources said Kintanar was a material witness in the case since he was the only one who provided investigators the needed breakthrough in the case. He is said to have been drinking with Medel, who bragged that he was involved in Blanca’s murder.

Kintanar, who was then a consultant at the immigration bureau, told Domingo about Medel’s involvement. Domingo relayed this piece of information to then PNP chief Leandro Mendoza, and this eventually led to Medel’s arrest.

Malacañang condemned Kintanar’s assassination and ordered the PNP to immediately get to the bottom of the killing.

"We condemn the brutal slaying of Kintanar and we extend our sincerest sympathies to his family," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

He added that preliminary information relayed to Malacañang indicates that Kintanar has "always been under constant threat since he turned his back on the NPA."

Bunye said Malacañang is keeping close tabs on the investigation and is awaiting the PNP’s report on the case.

With reports from Non Alquitran, Romel Bagares, Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla, Edith Regalado, Paolo Romero, AFP

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with