Unidentified gunmen shot dead a consultant for the Philippine communist rebel movement inside a bus Wednesday, police said, in a killing that could potentially disrupt back-channel efforts to jumpstart a stalled peace process with the government.
Randy Felix Malayao, 49, was sleeping aboard the bus when he was attacked by unknown assailants before dawn, police said.
One of two motorcycle-riding assailants boarded the bus as it made a stop at a bus terminal in northern Nueva Vizcaya province “then fired two successive shots” at the victim, said local police commander Chief Inspector Geovanni Cejes.
“Suspect immediately came down the bus then boarded his getaway motor vehicle together with his companion,” Cejes said in his incident report.
Malayao was a consultant to the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has been waging one of Southeast Asia’s longest running insurgencies spanning half a century.
Malayao, a former leader of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, an alliance of campus newspapermen, attended formal peace negotiations in Europe and acted as one of the spokesmen for the National Democratic Front panel. He was a former political prisoner who allegedly suffered torture while in jail.
He eventually worked among farmers’ organizations in the north, but was arrested for his alleged participation in the killing of a former governor tied to the dictatorship regime of Ferdinand Marcos. He spent several years in jail but was eventually freed.
The communist leadership said it was “outraged” by the killing. They praised Malayao as an “indefatigable worker in the service of the people.”
Fidel Agcaoili, leader of the communists’ peace panel, said Malayao was one of its spokesmen during formal negotiations.
Asked how the consultant’s death might affect prospects of resuming peace talks with the government, Agcaoili said: “We will have to assess the situation very carefully before making any firm decision.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, a self-described leftist, had opened peace talks with the communist rebels shortly after taking office in 2016. He also freed detained communist rebels to join negotiations in Europe.
But he subsequently terminated the talks, accusing the New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines – of violating a ceasefire pact and attacking government positions.
Duterte had also asked the justice department to designate the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization. The state has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
Karl Romano in Dagupan contributed to this report.