NPAs storm Town Hall, kill Mayor
Raymund Catindig, Charlie Lagasca (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Armed men in camouflage stormed the grounds of the Gonzaga, Cagayan town hall during the flag-raising ceremony and killed Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. at around 8 a.m. yesterday.

The mayor, who was serving his second term, belonged to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

Reports said the band consisted of around 30 to 50 men.

Two of eight men wielding M-16 rifles approached Pentecostes and shot him in front of horrified town hall employees.

Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon, Army 5th Infantry Division commander based in Isabela, said the killers were from the New People’s Army (NPA) who had mingled with the crowd taking part in the flag-raising ceremony.

Troops were sent to help police hunt down the killers of Pentecostes and seal all escape routes.

The mayor’s aides and two policemen guarding the municipal building were caught by surprise, and town employees and bystanders scampered for safety.

The 53-year-old Pentecostes reportedly greeted his killers when they approached him.

Initial reports said the mayor sustained at least 10 gunshot wounds, mostly in the head and upper body.

Cagayan Valley police director Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel told The STAR the killers of Pentecostes emerged from a van in front of the municipal grounds.

One of them shouted, “Si mayor lang ang aming papatayin (We will only kill the mayor).”

Witnesses said one of the gunmen was apologetic: “Pasensya na kayo Sir, wala kayong kasalanan. Si Mayor lang ang may kasalanan (Sorry Sir, you did nothing wrong. Only Mayor is at fault).”

Another armed band disarmed three policemen manning traffic along the highway, Laurel added.

Senior Police Officer 1 Maricon Labsangkay of the Gonzaga police said some of the armed men took office equipment and personal belongings of town hall employees.

A barangay official, who asked not to be identified, said they also saw armed men in camouflage around the two-story municipal building and the nearby highway and plaza.

Police said the armed men scattered leaflets with a message in Ilocano: “Hustisya para iti kaaduan, dusaen dagiti utek ti dayuhan a minas iti Cagayan (Justice for all. Punish the brains of the illegal mining operations by foreigners in Cagayan).”

The armed men reportedly took a police car, an Elf truck and another vehicle as their getaway vehicles and fled towards Barangays Santa Clara and Tapeng at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain.

They disarmed three policemen in the patrol car.

The town hall is only a few meters away from the municipal police headquarters.

Pentecostes’ relatives and close political allies believe politics and mining could be behind the killing.

Gonzaga, one of the areas being eyed for the national government-backed offshore large-scale black sand mining project, reportedly has the biggest deposits of the precious ore among the coastal towns in Cagayan.

Pentecostes earlier said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) stopped black sand mining in Gonzaga as early as last year.

“At present, there are no more extractions of black sand in our town,” he said.

“We will not allow any company to operate or resume operation unless they have permission from the MGB and other concerned authorities.”

Before joining politics in 2010, Pentecostes worked as an engineer and later as district head of the state-run National Irrigation Administration in Cagayan for more than three decades.

The MGB said mining firms extracting black sand in Cagayan’s coastlines have either been stopped or suspended indefinitely pending a review of their applications and operations.

Engineer Mario Ancheta, MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said the operations of most companies extracting black sand along the northern coastlines here had been stopped since last year.

“The mining permits of these firms were either revoked or suspended due to several violations like operating within the 200-meter prohibited zone,” he said.

The last suspension of black sand extraction was made last month, even before National Bureau of Investigation agents moved to stop these activities, he added.

The MGB’s stoppage orders also came in the wake of last month’s recommendation by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) for the suspension of black sand mining operations, pending evaluation of their operations.

The MICC, co-chaired by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, is under the Office of the President.

Among the companies whose permits were cancelled or suspended were Lutra Inc., Yin Ye Mining Co., Lian Xing Mining and Hua Xia Mining and Trading Corp.

“Lutra abandoned its operations, along with some of its equipment and facilities here, three years ago,” said a resident of this town, one of the black sand-rich areas in Cagayan.

Other towns where black sand was extracted were Buguey and Gonzaga.

The Hao Ren International Mining Group Inc. was the only remaining accredited firm extracting black sand here, as part of its P50-million seawall project, the MGB said.

Julius Catral, Aparri municipal administrator, said the project is part of last year’s memorandum of agreement between the town and Hao Ren, which would fund the construction of the seawall and ecological park in Dodan village.

“The seawall project aims to protect Barangay Dodan from floods or storm surge during high tide and typhoons,” he said.

Under the agreement, the black sand extracted during the construction of the seawall would be under the disposal of Hao Ren “but subject to mining laws as to its processing and utilization,” he added.

Black sand or magnetite is used as an additive in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics, making it a lucrative commodity in China, Taiwan and other foreign markets. – With Artemio Dumlao, Jaime Laude, Cecille Suerte Felipe


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