The possibility of offering a cash reward to fast-track the arrest of New People’s Army rebels involved in the massacre of a policeman and civilians in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, is being explored, Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said yesterday.
Mabanta said yesterday that some people have approached them and presented the idea of offering a bounty for the immediate arrest of the suspects.
This could be the product of outpouring sympathy, disgust and anguish over the killing of the nine and injuring of 12 others, Mabanta said in a press conference.
Probably these people, who feel that “enough is enough”, want to extend financial help to speed up the arrest of the suspects, he said.
Negrense-priest-turned rebel Luis Jalandoni justified the New People’s Army attacks in La Castellana on January 17, by saying the passengers of the truck were legitimate targets, citing the recovery of several high-powered firearms from them.
The capture of high-powered firearms proves that the principal passengers and the vehicle were legitimate targets of the NPA, Jalandoni said.
Mabanta said it took more than a week for the NPA to admit their involvement in the massacre.
“This goes to show that this group (NPA) we are contending with is disorganized, and there is no unity of command,” he said, noting that contradicting statements of the top CPP-NPA officials and their allies.
Citing police investigations, Mabanta also pointed out that most of the victims were shot in the head point-blank.
He, however, said the La Castellana massacre should not serve as a stumbling block in the pursuit of peace, and that they “continue to say that the only way to prosperity and development is peace,” he added.
Mabanta called on other stakeholders to help them establish a link to the rebel group, and reiterated his call for the holding of localized peace talks.
Although the call was rejected several times by the NPA leadership in Negros, he said “We should never lose hope of attaining peace”.*GPB