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NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Negros will initiate a motu proprio investigation into the killing of alleged noncombatant rebels and a tricycle driver in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City on September 21.
Vincent Parra, CHR-Negros Occidental chief, told Rappler on Monday, September 25, that the commission will start its investigation into the case within this week to gain a deeper understanding of the situation.
The military said the group of six were killed during an encounter in Tabugon village.
Parra said they will collaborate with the Kabankalan City Component Police Station and the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion to request official records, including a battle report, which will be used in the CHR’s inquiry.
The Constitution mandates the CHR to ensure that the government does not violate human rights – primarily civil and political rights – and ensures that the government fulfills its responsibility in upholding, advancing, and protecting the rights of its citizens.
Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines, public information officer of the 3rd Infantry Division, told Rappler that the Army is fully open to any investigation conducted by independent bodies.
“We are confident and firmly believe that the said encounter was legitimate. Therefore, we are open and welcome any inquiry by independent parties, as the investigation’s results will ultimately clear and vindicate us from any allegations of human rights violations,” Javines said.
Javines also said the troops in Kabankalan City strictly adhered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) rules of engagement, the provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and the rule of law.
The military’s response came after several groups and individuals, including San Carlos City Bishop Gerardo Alminiza, called for an investigation into the killing of a group of six that occurred on the day the Philippines marked the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
The six identified fatalities were Bobby Pedro, Mario Mullon, Janice Flores, Ruben Gaitan, Alejo Delos Reyes, and his wife Melissa Dela Peña.
Flores allegedly served as an NPA medical officer while Dela Peña was six months pregnant.
The widow of Gaitan earlier rejected the military’s assertion that Ruben was an NPA guerrilla or had ties with the rebels and maintained that the group had merely hired him to drive for them.
Javines, however, told Rappler that Gaitan’s family was unaware of his alleged participation and affiliations with the New People’s Army.
According to Javines, the same rebel group has committed several atrocities in southern Negros Occidental, including the alleged killing of Pastor Lonie Lahaolahao in Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City, in 2020, and Silas Granada earlier this year.
The military also linked them to the ambush of four soldiers in 2021 and 2022 in Cauayan Town and Sipalay City, respectively.
They were also accused of burning construction equipment in the cities of Kabankalan and Sipalay in March 2022.
The military said those killed were members of the Sandatahang Yunit Propaganda (SYP) Platoon, South-Western Front (SWF), Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS) operating in the towns of Cauayan, Hinobaan, Ilog Candoni, and the cities Kabankalan and Sipalay.
Authorities claimed the group was weakened and had only eight active members left. – Rappler.com