Manila, Jan. 26, 2003 (Malaya) - Interior Secretary Jose Lina Jr. yesterday said a major intelligence lapse was partly to blame for the killing of former New People's Army chief Romulo "Rolly" Kintanar's last Thursday in Quezon City.

He said the intelligence community had received reports of a special operation squad in Metro Manila formed by the NPA.

"For a while parang hindi natuloy o umatras, pero itong nangyayaring ito nangangahulugan lamang na pinagpapatuloy nila ang kanilang plano," he told a radio interview.

He said the intelligence gathering capability of the PNP and AFP, which on Friday announced that the Special Operations Group of the NPA could be responsible for Kintanar's killing, should be strengthened.

Among the reported targets of the hit squads are Col. Victor Corpus, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, and Chief Supt. Roberto Delfin, chief of the PNP Intelligence Group.

Delfin earlier said two NPA hit squads were operating in Metro Manila using the southern part of the metropolis as their base.

Chief Supt. Romeo Maganto, head of a special task force created by President Arroyo to neutralize urban guerrilla hit squads in Metro Manila, one of which is responsible for Kintanar's assassination, said the communist problem is already "alarming" because the rebels are now threatening to kill high officials, when in the 1980s they were killing only policemen who were perceived to be corrupt.

Other reported targets are presidential chief of staff Rigoberto Tiglao, Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople, national security adviser Roilo Golez, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and Press Secretary Hernani Braganza.

Other developments:

PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane said no Cabinet member has asked for additional security but the PNP is conducting a "survey" on what they need in terms of better security.

He said the PNP has been talking to some of Kintanar's fellow former rebels to see if they also need security.

"Apparently, na-pattern siya (Kintanar). Palagi kasi siyang pumupunta doon (Kamameshi restaurant where Kintanar was killed). I was informed he used to visit the place very often," he added.

He said his orders to the Task Force Kintanar once they find the late NPA leader's killers are to "arrest them, waste them if they opt to fight it out."

Braganza said government is taking the hit list "very seriously."

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes told his colleagues in the Cabinet not to panic but to "take precautions and be vigilant but continue doing their jobs and go on with their lives."

Lina said the police are ready to offer security to other former NPA members.

He also said Kintanar already knew his life was in danger the moment he left the NPA. He said Kintanar was recruiting former members from the NPA for his "Serve the People Foundation" to give assistance to former NPA rebels. (Malaya)

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