Nine people died and at least six were injured in an ambush early Sunday in La Castellana town in Negros Occidental.
Among the dead were one policeman, six village guards, the wife of a guard, and the driver of the truck, said the police spokesman.
“They wanted to finish them off, especially the policeman. They shot him in the head to make sure he was dead,” said Santotome.
PO1 Jurie Gan Jr. of the La Castellana police said the victims were on their way back to headquarters when the attack occurred at 3:45 a.m.
“Kaninang umaga pauwi na sana nang tambangan sila,” Gan said in an interview on dzBB radio.
Santotome identified the lone PNP member-fatality as PO1 Richard Canja of the La Castellana Police Station.
Also killed were Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team members Ulysses Tamayor, Jonathan Mateo and Ramir Complesa, civilians Virginia Ordoñez and Lito Lucban, driver Ricky Dingcong, and tanods Mario Ricablanca and Tiotimo Esplegera of Bgy. Puso, said Police Sr. Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, La Castellana PNP chief.
The injured numbered six, including PO3 Constantino Villegas and PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez assigned to the Cabacungan PNP detachment along with Canja, said Resuma.
Police suspect the communist New People's Army (NPA) are behind the attack, the deadliest NPA assault in three years. In 2009, 23 people died in an encounter between NPAs and the military in Mindanao.
Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office director Police Sr. Superintendent Celestino Guara Jr. on Sunday condemned in the strongest possible terms the attack.
The ambush occurred at a barangay road in Bgy. Puso, La Castellana, PNP said in a press release.
The canter truck carried three PNP members of La Castellana PNP, tanods, Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team volunteers as well as civilians on their way home to Bgy. Cabacungan after they attended the fiesta of Bgy. Puso.
Members of the Negros Occidental PNP, the army's Special Forces and Scout Rangers conducted pursuit operations while the victims' bodies were brought to Nalagon Funeral Homes in La Castellana.
The government had hoped to revive peace talks with the insurgents, even declaring a Christmas season ceasefire with the guerrillas, but in recent weeks the NPA have stepped up attacks on rural businesses and security forces.
The rebel leadership pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after the government rejected their demands to free jailed comrades who they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.
Although both sides held fresh high-level talks in December last year and agreed to the Christmas ceasefire, fighting with the NPA—the rebels' guerrilla arm—continues.
The Maoist rebels have been waging an armed rebellion to seize power since 1969 and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.