Soldiers' grieving families decry 'mutilation' by NPA rebels
DAVAO, Philippines – The families of soldiers who lost their lives during an August 5 ambush in Compostela Valley province accused the New People's Army (NPA) of "mutilating" their loved ones.
"It pains me to see my son killed and his left ear mutilated. It is inhuman," Angel Mapa, father of Army Corporal Gilmar Mapa, told Rappler in the local dialect.
The bodies of the two other soldiers killed during the ambush – Private First Class Rollen Roy Sarmiento and Corporal Roel Mangawang – also looked like they had been slashed with a bladed weapon.
The corpse of another soldier, Corporal Jimmy Bayta, bore signs of being struck on the head.
Survivors of the encounter said that at around 7:15 am on Friday, August 5, the military truck they were in was traversing Barangay Rizal in Monkayo town when the landmine planted by rebels exploded.
Some 20 soldiers on board the truck engaged 60 or so rebels in heavy firefight. The August 5 encounter left Sarmiento, Mapa, and Bayta, all members of the 25th Infantry Battalion, dead on the spot.
Mangawang of the 71st Infantry Battalion, meanwhile, died on August 4 during an encounter in Margusan.
Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, told Rappler that Bayta's neck was also cut. "[Bayta] was hacked while the face of the two soldiers were slashed. Sarmiento's face is deformed [and] it seems like it was hit by a hard object," said the Army general, while adding that they were still waiting for the autopsy reports.
Valencia said that a captured rebel named Sadam Tawid admitted to government investigators that he was among those who launched the attack against government troops. The rebel also confirmed the hacking, according to Valencia, and "even took a video while Bayta was tortured until he died."
Tawid is currently confined at the Southern Philippines Medical Center.
Also captured during the encounter were a certain Amels Saguiwan and Michael Alvarez. Another female rebel, a certain Rose Sayson, was killed during the encounter.
An emotional President Rodrigo Duterte condoled with the families of the slain soldiers early Sunday morning, August 7. Speaking at a news conference after his visit, Duterte gave rebels an ultimatum to stop using landmines and to respect the Geneva Convention.
The ambush comes mere weeks before the Philippine government and Communist rebels are set to resume peace talks in Oslo, Norway. Leaders of Asia's longest-running insurgency had earlier expressed hope for peace under the Duterte administration. – Editha Z. Caduaya / Rappler.com