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Sun.Star: History of violence in Sapang Dalaga

January 31, 2008 9:21am
CAGAYAN DE ORO - The killing of former Sapang Dalaga town mayor Rey Yap in Manila Tuesday is the latest to bedevil the rich and powerful Yap political clan in bloody vengeance killings.

It is this continuing saga that brought this poor sixth class municipality, whose impoverished people live off from selling copra, into the national limelight.

Just like his father Rino Sr., from whom he inherited political savvy, Rey suffered the fate - death from assassins' bullets.

Rino Sr., the political and family patriarch, was killed in an in an ambush carried out by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the 80s.

Rey was attending the murder trial as principal suspect in the killing of former NPA rebel, Julie Ontulan, whom the Yaps' blamed as responsible for the ambush slaying of Rino Sr.

From 1989 to 1995, other Yap brothers were also felled by assassins' bullets: Redulio Yap in 1989; Rizalio Jr. killed while campaigning in 1992; Teddy or Thiamine in 1994; and Baliangao Mayor Agapito Jr. who was killed in Cagayan de Oro in June 1995.

The Yaps have a longstanding family feud with another powerful Misamis Occidental political clan, the Cebedos.

Family origins

The Yap family descended from the union of a Chinese trader, who adopted the name Agapito Sr., and a local lass belonging to the Villanueva family clan, a political clan, in Baliangiao town.

The Yaps made a fortune in copra trading in the 40s and eventually entered politics.

They slowly expanded their businesses and political influence to the northern towns of Misamis Occidental.

In 1971, the family expanded into neighboring coastal town Sapang Dalaga town when Rino Sr. was elected mayor. Rino's assumption as Sapang Dalaga mayor also marked the boom years of the family's copra buying business.

The Yaps have become so powerful that every candidate for Misamis Occidental first congressional district thinks it is wise to seek their endorsement.

Even the post-Edsa revolutionary government failed to shake the Yaps from power -- they managed to put Rey as mayor of Sapang Dalaga.

The tide started to turn against the Yaps when they entered local politics in the nearby Rizal town, Zamboanga del Norte where the family owned vast landholdings.

Expansion

Roy, son of Rino Sr., ran for mayor and headed a slate fielded for the 1992 polls, facing Victorio Cebedo, scion of a landed family who is allied with the Jalosjos family.

In the heat of the campaign, Victorio was killed and his brother Perfecto replaced him as candidate and won. Perfecto went on to serve three consecutive terms in office.

The Cebedos blamed the Yaps as behind the killing of Victorio, accusing Rey and Roy.

This began a history of violence that span for more than a decade.

The Yaps were blamed for strafing the van driven by Prudencio Cebedo and Victorio, Perfecto's brother.

In November 2002, Perfecto was killed in an ambush in Alabang, Metro Manila and the Cebedos blamed the Yaps for the killing.

Alliance

The Cebedos fought back by striking alliances with the political adversaries of the Yaps.

The late former Rizal town mayor Gabriel Catane, a close Cebedo ally, told reporters the Cebedos adopted this strategy to fend off the Yaps' expansion into the town.

This alliance reportedly had the "blessing" of former congressman Romeo Jalosjos who did not like Yap entering local politics in Zamboanga del Norte.

In 2003, the Yaps accused a brother of Jalosjos and the Cebedos for the police raid in their family compound in Manila where printing machines for making counterfeit bills and a cache of high-powered firearms were allegedly found.

The Cebedos openly supported every opponent of the Yaps in the local elections.

In 1998, Joel Maniwan and Donjie Animas who were supported by the Cebedos won as mayor and vice mayor of Sapang Dalaga.

This ended the Yap's political influence, but political violence did not end.

At least 15 people were seriously injured in a series of incidents before the 2001 elections. Last year, a cousin of Donjie Animas was also killed.

Amid all this violence, Sapang Dalaga remains an impoverished town. - Sun.Star