GUARDS. Two soldiers sit on both sides of the slain tribal leader, Ruben Labawan's coffin in the latter's last day of wake on Thursday, July 14.  (Paulo C. Rizal/

GUARDS. Two soldiers sit on both sides of the slain tribal leader, Ruben Labawan’s coffin in the latter’s last day of wake on Thursday, July 14. (Paulo C. Rizal/

DAVAO CITY — The family of slain anti-Communist Ata tribal leader Ruben Labawan insisted on his innocence to the accusations hurled by the New People’s Army (NPA), who owned responsibility to the killing.

During the wake of Labawan at Almendras Gym here, Cencia Manuyog, sister of Ruben Labawan belied the NPA’s allegations that Labawan was responsible for the threats, harassment, and killing of indigenous peoples in Davao City and some parts of North Cotabato province.

“Buotan man akong kuya, dili man siya daotan, maayo man gani na siya sa akoang pamilya (My brother is kind, he is not bad, he is even good to my family),”she said. Manuyog lives in Paquibato, a remote northern district here.

Manuyog said that Labawan would even go to their area every three months to check the status of the IPs in Paquibato.

“Kadtong May 30 mi last nagkita didto sa among bukid sa Paquibato, naa man gud siyay balay diri sa Davao (We last saw each other on May 30 at our farm in Paquibato since he has his own house here in Davao),” she said.

Manuyog said she has no idea why the NPA ambushed him.

“Ambot lang unsa ilang gusto mahitabo nganong iambush man akong magulang (I have no idea why they have to ambush my brother),” Manuyog said.

Hours before the ambush in Panabo City, Minda Torotoro, Labawan’s wife, said she advised him to be vigilant saying “the city is not safe for him”.

“Nananghid siya sa akoa na magattend siya ug meeting sa Panabo, ana ko na Panabo na sad ka kabalo ka na delikado ng lugara pero ana siya na sige lang daw kay naa man siyay kauban (He asked permission from me that he will attend a meeting in Panabo, I told him that Panabo is not a safe place for him, but he insisted because there is someone who will accompany him),” she said.

Torotoro said Labawan left odn Wednesday July 6 at 7:00 am.

“He didn’t say anything even a hint that he will be gone on that day,” she said.

Torotoro said that the meeting was about National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) summit.

“He said that the meeting is important because he will submit a final resolution,” she said.

Prior to the incident, Torotoro said that Labawan received “three threats” already.

“Dili nana bag-o para sa akoa, kabalo nami ana, ikatulo nani niya (That is not new to me, we already knew about the threats he received, this is the third time),” she said.

Torotoro said that she does not believe there is truth on the NPA’s accusations against her husband.

“Super bait na siya, pati ang tribu niya apil na sa pagmahal niya, maski mawad an na siyag time namo pero okay lang kay naanad nako sa ilaha ug sa iyaha, God-fearing na siya kay kung wala mi naguban, magpastor na siya (He’s so kind.  His tribe is part of his love already. Even if he doesn’t have time for us already, it’s okay because we are used to it. He is God-fearing, if the two of us didn’t end up together, he is a church pastor by now),” she said.

The NPA released a statement on July 8 owning up to the killing as it also described the Lumad and peasant masses as “rejoicing on the revolutionary justice” meted out to the Datu.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA Southern Mindanao Operations Command said Labawan was an active organizer of the AFP’s Alamara “and threatened hapless Lumads of violent retaliation in order to force them to enlist in the paramilitary group.”

“He conspired with the AFP’s 69th IB in the 2015 Paquibato massacre that killed Datu Ruben Enlog and farmers Randy Carnasa and Oligario Quimbo,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said that along with the AFP troops, Labawan’s  Alamara and other paramilitaries “have committed the most fanatic and barbaric acts of war crimes around the region, such as the cold-murder of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio.”

The NPA also claimed that most recently, Labawan and his troops were “responsible for the rape and summary killing of two NPA hors de combat in Paquibato and the mutilation of a Red fighter in Magpet, North Cotabato.”

The NPA said that “human rights violators and other enemies of the people must no longer be allowed to inflict further harm against innocent civilians”.

“In the exercise of revolutionary justice, Labawan has been made accountable for the heinous crimes he has committed against the Filipino people,” Sanchez said.

Resumption of peace talks urged

Acting Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte has called on the public to support the immediate resumption of peace talks between the NDF and the government.

Duterte who also condoled with the Labawan family said the tribal leader’s death shows the “urgent need for us to be united against violence and to support the quest for justice and calls for the immediate resumption of peace talks.”(

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