A P300,000 reward will be given to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the suspects in the killing of a village chief in Tapaz town, Capiz province.
“I am offering this reward to those that can really lead to the arrest of the criminals who perpetrated this cowardly act,” Mayor Roberto Palomar said in a video released by the Tapaz Information Office.
Palomar made the commitment in a virtual meeting with the Western Visayas Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) and National Task Force to ELCAC spokesperson, Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, on March 1.
Julie Catamin, 45, chairperson of Barangay Roosevelt in the said town, was on board a motorcycle on his way home when shot by riding-in-tandem suspects in Barangay Malitbog, Calinog town in the morning of Feb. 28.
Maj. Cenon Pancito III, spokesperson of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), in a phone interview, said Palomar confirmed during the meeting that Catamin indeed received death threats and asked that he be issued a firearm for self-defense.
Pancito said they were informed that the killing of Catamin was “perpetrated by the CPP-NPA" (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) contrary to the communist terrorist group’s (CTG) claim that the incident was government-initiated.
The CTG added that Catamin was brought to a hospital when the victim was still at the site of the killing at the time the statement was released.
“It was template. They knew that the incident was forthcoming so they were able to release (a statement),” Pancito said.
The Army’s statement released at almost 5 p.m. said they still have to verify the facts.
He clarified circulating information that Catamin did not show up when requested for a meeting by the 12th Infantry Battalion in Calinog, Iloilo. He said the victim had an “open line” with the Philippine Army from the brigade commander down to the lowest ranked soldier.
Catamin's condemnation of the Dec. 30, 2020 police operation in his barangay was not enough reason to stain his relationship with the Army, Pancito said.
Catamin even sent some of his constituents to participate in the pilot episode of the Akap-Kapatid program in Oton, Iloilo that was designed for rebel surrenderers and former CPP-NPA supporters affected by the operations, he said.
“He has been working with us for so long already. Roosevelt is part of the guerilla base of the CPP-NPA in Tapaz. Our community support program team was deployed as early as June of last year so the working relationship is already there,” he said.
It was under Catamin’s term that the CPP-NPA was declared as a persona non grata in his locality on Sept. 15, 2020.
Pancito said Catamin is a big loss noting of his huge help in the government fight against insurgency.
The Army, he said, will double their efforts, so that the objectives of programs and projects initiated by Catamin in Barangay Roosevelt would come to fruition.
Meanwhile, the Western Visayas RTF-ELCAC also condemned the killing of Catamin, who is considered as a peace advocate.
Associate Provincial Prosecutor Flosemer Chris I. Gonzales, chairperson of the Legal Cooperation Cluster (LCC) and spokesperson of the task force, said the slain village chief was a peace advocate “who made a stand against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)".
“He has worked with the government to put an end to the local communist insurgency in Tapaz. At the heart of all these efforts of Hon. Julie Catamin is his desire for a genuine and lasting peace for his constituents in Barangay Roosevelt and for the people of Tapaz,” Gonzales said.
The task force, he said, will find the perpetrators and bring them to the bars of justice.
“Hon. Julie Catamin is a victim of a terroristic act. This, we strongly condemn. We denounce (in the strongest possible words) any and all form of violence against unarmed civilians especially against those who advocate for peace,” Gonzales said.
His death, according to the task force, “stands as testament to the terrorist activities of the CPP-NPA”.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The task force also offered its sympathy to the family of the late barangay official.
On the other hand, Capt. Genesis R. Roque, officer-in-charge of the Calinog Municipal Police Station, said in a phone interview Tuesday, said the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) was tasked by the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6) to create a special investigation task group (SITG) that would focus on the case.
With the SITG, they expect to hasten the conduct of the investigation and look into all possible angles behind the death of Catamin.PNA