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NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Another farmer tagged by the security forces as an active New People’s Army (NPA) member was killed in an alleged encounter in Sitio Caranawan, Barangay Amontay in Binalbagan town on Wednesday, December 6.
The recent encounter happened four days before the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) on December 10.
The Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion Civil-Military Operations Officer Lieutenant Mary Joy De Guzman confirmed the identity of the casualty as Braulio Tobalado, an alleged member of the NPA’s Central Negros 1.
De Guzman said the encounter stemmed from reports of extortion from the local populace, which led to a five-minute firefight with five suspected NPA fighters.
The government troops seized a .45 caliber pistol, a backpack with personal belongings, and subversive documents at the encounter site.
Nora, wife of Tobalado, however, refuted the claims of the military tagging her husband an NPA. She recounted that they were roused from sleep by a group of the military around 5 am.
“Natabo alas singko, natuktok na sila (military) tapos gin abrihan sang magulang ko nga bata tapos siya nag-sunod tapos gin-pamangkot nila kun sya si Bane kag nag hambal sya nga huo,” she said.
(The soldiers came to our house at about five in the morning, and my oldest son opened it quickly, followed by my husband. When they asked if he was Bane, he said yes.)
“Gin-tawag dayon sang military akon bana nga mana-og sa balay kay istoryahon daw nila tapos siling niya diri lang daw sa balay pero pagpanaog gin-dala nila sa likod sang balay kag wala man nila anay gin imbestigar, gin-rekta lang nila patay,” she added.
(The military asked my husband to come down from our house because they would ask something and after my husband stepped down, they brought my husband to the back and they killed him without interrogating him first.)
Nora admitted that there are times when NPAs used to pass by their community and they usually give food because they knew that they would get into trouble when they allowed them to enter their houses.
She firmly asserted that her husband was not an NPA as claimed by the military but was chainsaw operator and a farmer just to provide something for their family of six.
“Ga-anad nalang na ang mga army pamatay sang mga pumuloyo sa bukid, tapos ila plantedan kag ila ihulog nga NPA,” she said.
(The military used to kill civilians in the mountains, they would put illegal materials in their possession and later declare them as NPAs.)
Nora was still reeling from the pain after her sister died and was just buried the day before her husband was killed by the military approximately 30 meters away from their residence.
She said her husband was wrongly tagged by the former rebels-turned-peace advocates of the 62nd Infantry Battalion and exposed that these peace advocates of the military used to come to their houses when they were still active NPAs.
The Binalbagan clash was followed by another armed firefight in Barangay Buenavista in Himamaylan City, involving the 94th Infantry Battalion on December 7.
The military said an eight-minute firefight ensued with four suspected communist rebels, which led to the seizure of one rifle, one long M16 magazine, one short M16 magazine, seven rounds of live M16 ammunition, one pair of rain boots, two pairs of slippers, one backpack, assorted medicines, and personal belongings.
Two other alleged skirmishes broke out separately in southern Negros Occidental in September and November.
The September 21 encounter claimed four non-combatant rebels and a tricycle driver in Kabankalan City, which sparked an outcry from various groups claiming that the military had violated the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
The military, however, asserted that it did not violate any rules of law of the Philippines or the IHL.
More than a month later, another encounter transpired in Cauayan town, killing a charcoal maker and a farmer tagged by the state forces as active members of the NPA’s Southwest front. – Rappler.com