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Former priest and activist shot dead in Philippines

Left-wing groups accuse govt of executing Rustico Tan while he slept at his home

Former priest and activist shot dead in Philippines

Rustico Tan, 80, was murdered while sleeping in a hammock at his home in Cebu on May 28. (Photo supplied)

A former priest and chief negotiator for a Philippine rebel group has been shot dead at his home in Cebu province, police said.

Rustico Tan, 80, was shot several times while he slept in a hammock at his home in the town of Pilar in the central Philippines on May 28.

Tan left the priesthood several decades ago and joined the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a coalition of left-wing groups.  

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He went on to serve as a peace negotiator for communist rebels in peace talks during the administration of president Corazon Aquino and was still serving the rebels as a peace consultant shortly before his death, according to police.

A police spokesman in Cebu denied rumors police may have been involved in the shooting due to Tan’s links to the rebels and their armed wing, the New People’s Army.

“Tan’s killing seems to have something to do with a personal grudge. An investigation is still ongoing,” Sergeant Florente Gorrea said.

Clearly, this killing has the aim of driving terror into the hearts of the people and their revolutionary forces

The Communist Party of the Philippines [CCP], however, blamed current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, saying Tan’s murder was part of an orchestrated campaign against senior rebel figures.

“The fascists are targeting peace consultants who are in their senior years ... Clearly, this killing has the aim of driving terror into the hearts of the people and their revolutionary forces,” CCP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said in a May 29 statement.

Several figures linked to the NDFP have been killed in recent years.

Peasant leader and activist Randall Echanis was killed in his home in Quezon City in the Philippine capital on Aug. 10 last year.

Anakpawis, a left-wing political party, said Tan was “summarily executed” following a directive from Duterte “to take no prisoners” in quashing communists in the Philippines.

Duterte’s spokesperson said on May 20 that communist rebels would be hunted wherever they were regardless of age. “Justice will catch up with them,” Harry Roque said.

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