Bishops and Lawmakers Call for Separate Investigations into Davao de Oro ‘Encounter’

BUKIDNON, Philippines – Bishops from various Christian denominations and a group of lawmakers have called for separate official investigations into the February 24 deaths of Lumad rights activist and volunteer teacher Chad Booc and four others in the province of Davao de Oro.

The calls came amid controversy surrounding what the military claimed was an encounter in the town of New Bataan that killed the five militants on February 24.

All five were accused by the military of being New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, an allegation disputed by Booc’s family and the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network).

In a March 4 statement, the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF) called for separate investigations into the deaths by the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Human Rights Commission. man (CHR).

The statement was signed by EBF President and United Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Bishop Joel Tendero, Emeritus Catholic Bishop of Caloocan Deogracias Iniguez Jr., and the Very Reverend Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy and Dindo Ranojo of the Iglesia Filipina. Independent.

The EBF said the government’s heavy-handed approach to Southeast Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency has resulted in vilification, red-branding, frame-ups, detentions, killings and anti-terrorist policies and programs. human rights and environmental activists, sectoral leaders, and even church people.

“His appetite for chasing groups for expression remained insatiable even during his final months in office,” reads the Bishops’ statement.

In the House of Representatives, six lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc tabled House Resolution No. 2500 to urge the CHR to open an investigation into the alleged Davao de Oro encounter.

The resolution noted that Booc, the most prominent member of the group, had been subjected to intense red-marking, threats and harassment long before his assassination.

Lawmakers have also cited conflicting accounts of their deaths.

The resolution was co-drafted by Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna, Sarah Elago of the Kabataan party list, Arlyn Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party and France Castro of ACT Teachers.

The perpetrators and their groups themselves, moreover, have been subjected to years of red flagging.

The College of Engineering at the University of the Philippines-Diliman also issued a strong statement against the rise in the number of killings which it said were attributed to “encounters with the NPA”.

“We demand punitive measures… We believe in the rule of law and justice for all; even in times of war, there are laws to follow. Instead of killing our young people, the government should address the causes of their respective decisions to leave their comfortable lives to serve the underserved,” the group said.

Brigadier General Jesus Durante III, commander of the army’s 1001st brigade, told a press conference that the meeting in New Bataan took place after villagers informed the army that supplies were in stock. road to be delivered to the NPA rebels operating in the area.

Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyrone Uy corroborated military claims of a meeting in New Bataan on February 24, contrary to claims made by the NPA and SOS Network that there was none that day- the.

Booc, according to Durante, was an NPA recruiter, an allegation SOS Network disputed.

SOS Network said Booc and the other activists were sent to Davao de Oro to carry out research work because the group was anticipating the reopening of Lumad schools.

Meanwhile, the NPA in southern Mindanao has threatened to punish those responsible for the militants’ deaths.

Marco Valbuena, information director of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), alleged that Booc, Gelejurain Ngujo II, Elgyn Balonga, and drivers Roberto Aragon and Tirso Añar were detained by the military on the evening of February 23, hours before the alleged encounter.

“The victims were accosted at a military checkpoint at Barangay Poblacion, New Bataan in Davao de Oro. On February 24, the bodies of the five people were found lying on a dirt road at Purok 8, Barangay Andap,” Valbuena alleged.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman for the NPA in southern Mindanao, warned against “revolutionary justice”. –

Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and recipient of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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