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Jevilyn Cullamat buried, but mom Rep Eufemia not able to join funeral

Jevilyn Cullamat, the slain daughter of Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat, was laid to rest Thursday, December 3, but the grieving mother did not attend because of “serious threats” against her own life. 

The lawmaker said in a statement that her youngest child was buried at the public cemetery in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Thursday, December 3. Just 5 days ago Jevilyn was killed during a firefight between New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and government troops in Marihatag town. 

The 22-year-old Jevilyn was a medic for the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. 

Though it pained her deeply, Eufemia said their family ultimately decided against her going to the funeral after she received threats in the wake of Jevilyn’s controversial killing.

“Nakakalungkot at masakit sa akin bilang isang ina na hindi na makita kahit sa huling sandali ang aking bunso, pero nag-desisyon ang aking pamilya na hindi na ako pauwiin para sa libing dahil sa seryosong banta sa aking seguridad at buhay,” said the outspoken congresswoman. 

(Thought it saddens and pains me deeply as a mother that I would not be able to witness my youngest daughter’s last moments, my family decided not to let me come home given the serious threats to my security and life.)

“Kahit na miyembro ako ng Kongreso, walang katiyakan na ligtas akong makakadalo sa libing ng anak ko dahil sa mga bantang ito. Pero maliit na bagay ito kumpara sa naging sakripisyo ni Jevilyn,” added Cullamat, who is also a leader of the Manobo tribe. 

(Even if I am a member of Congress, there is no guarantee that I would be safely able to attend my child’s funeral given these threats. But this is a small thing compared to Jevilyn’s sacrifice.)

She said Jevilyn may have joined the NPA as a medic after seeing firsthand the military’s abuses against the Lumad. 

Eufemia asked the Commission on Human Rights to probe into the military's alleged "desecration" of Jevilyn’s remains. Photographs showing Jevilyn's remains alongside seized weapons and communist flags went the rounds after the November 28 encounter.

In one photo, a rifle was even slung over the shoulder of the lifeless Jevilyn as if she were holding the weapon.

Cullamat’s colleagues at the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives slammed the military for using Jevilyn as a “trophy for propaganda purposes.”

But Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said that the pictures of Jevilyn’s remains were taken "for reporting and documentation purposes," a requirement after every encounter. 

Jevilyn’s death comes at the heels of the intensified red-tagging of Makabayan lawmakers and other activists under President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

The Commander-in-chief himself even accused the Makabayan bloc of acting as a front for communist rebels. 

A mother's vow

Eufemia recalled fond memories of Jevilyn, whom she described as a bright child who once dreamed of becoming a nurse. 

“Lagi ko siyang matatandaan bilang mabuting anak, matalino, at nagkamit ng mga parangal sa eskuwelahan gaya ng leadership award at best in agriculture,” Cullamat said. 

( will always remember her as a good child. A smart one who received awards in school like the leadership award and best in agriculture.)

“Pinangarap ni Jevilyn na maging nars. Pero hanggang sa ngayon, napakataas na pangarap nito para sa mga batang Lumad na katulad niya sa ilalim ng sistemang tinuturing kaming mababa,” she added.

(Jevilyn dreamed of becoming a nurse. But until now, this is a lofty dream for a young Lumad like her under a system that considers us as lowly people.)

The Bayan Muna congresswoman promised to honor Jevilyn’s memory by fiercely defending the rights of the Lumad.

“Sa ngalan at sa ala-ala ni Jevilyn, ipinapangako ko na habang ako ay nabubuhay ay gagawin ko lahat ng makakaya para: mabuksan muli ang mga pilit ipinasarang paaralang Lumad, mabigyan ng hustisya ang lahat ng mga pinaslang na mga Lumad, maipagtanggol ang lupa ng ninuno, maipanalo ang karapatan ng mga Lumad sa pagpapasya sa sarili at magkaroon ng gobyernong tunay na malaya, makatao, at demokratiko,” said Cullamat. 

(In the name and in honor of Jevilyn, I promise that as long as I am alive, I would do everything in power to: reopen Lumad schools that were forcibly closed down, give justice to slain Lumad, defend our ancestral lands, champion the rights of the Lumad to become independent and have a government that is free, humane, and democratic.)

A Senate committee is currently investigating the Duterte government’s red-tagging practices, but the Makabayan bloc said the panel has been “reduced to a venue for witch-hunting” by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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