The lone fatality in the clash between government forces and suspected communist rebels at Mansalay town in Oriental Mindoro province on Sunday was a religious leader who was also an active facilitator of the government’s antipoverty program.
Leovelito Quiñones, 57, a pastor of the Guardian of Truth Ministry, was killed, according to Willy Yasay of the Southern Mindoro Ministerial Association, a group of Christian leaders in Oriental Mindoro.
Chief Insp. Romeo Plaida Jr., Mansalay police chief, also confirmed in a text message on Tuesday that Quiñones was a religious leader.
Quiñones (identified as Pablito Quinunez in a military report) was killed when armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) fought Army soldiers belonging to the 4th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Bait in Barangay Panaytayan at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.
A 13-year-old boy was wounded by a stray bullet that hit his house near the battle site.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Yasay said Quiñones’ death could have been a case of “mistaken identity.”
“He was an active pastor. That day, he was on his way home from Bansud (town) after getting an amplifier for their church when he was killed,” he said.
In a separate interview, Catherine Fos, a facilitator of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), confirmed that Quiñones was also an active 4Ps volunteer assigned to the villages of Don Pedro and Teresita in Mansalay.
The cash aid program aims to alleviate the life of the country’s poorest families with conditions that they must attend family planning sessions regularly or make sure that their children go to school.
The military, however, stood by its report that Quiñones was an NPA rebel who left a wife and five children.
He was among eight rebels traveling on four motorcycles from Bulalacao town to deliver “logistics” to guerrillas. said Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., commander of the Army’s 203rd Infantry Brigade.
The other rebels reportedly escaped after the encounter.
The military said the soldiers recovered from Quiñones a .45-caliber pistol and two containers of bullets.
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