Lawyers’ group: Bar passer, CPP comrades captured and tortured in Bohol

Reymund Titong

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Lawyers’ group: Bar passer, CPP comrades captured and tortured in Bohol
The Cebu chapter of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers claims no encounter occurred in relation to the killing of a young Bar passer and four of her fellow communist rebels

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The Cebu chapter of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) claimed there was no encounter in the killing of a young Bar passer and four of her fellow communist rebels, contrary to the claim of the Philippine army that an encounter happened.

“Several accounts support that no encounter has transpired. Instead, the five individuals were ordered to vacate the house where they were staying. The four men were forced to strip off their shirts,” NUPL-Cebu said in a statement on Sunday, February 25.

The killing happened in Sitio Matin-ao 2, Barangay Campagao, Bilar, Bohol, on Friday, February 23, which the military and the police described as an encounter with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).

NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has sustained the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia, and among the world’s most prominent, albeit it is dwindling in numbers if the Philippine military is to be believed.

The CPP has claimed that the five people killed are indeed armed combatants, among them is Hannah Jay Cesista who passed the 2022 Bar Examinations but did not take her lawyers’ oath which is why she is not listed in the Supreme Court roll.

“It poses a question on what exactly could have pushed this young Bar passer to choose the ultimate action,” Edre Olalia, chairperson of the NUPL, told Rappler.

What happened?

According to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), the Bohol Provincial Police and the 47th Infantry Battalion launched a joint enhanced military-police operation (JEMPO) against who they believed were members of the NPA’s Bohol party committee.

3rd ID spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines told Rappler on Saturday, February 24, that the target of their operation was Domingo Compoc, whom they allege to be a high-ranking NPA leader. Compoc was among the five killed, including Cesista, Parlito Segovia, Marlon Omosura and an alias Juaning.

A cop, Police Corporal Gilbert Amper, died; while another, Patrolman Gerard Rollon, was wounded but is now in stable condition.

However, according to NUPL-Cebu, what happened was not an encounter but a killing.

“Initial reports received by NUPL Cebu show significant discrepancies and expose their possible commission of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations.” said the group.

The IHL is the Philippines’ law that established rules in wartime and armed conflict. So far, the IHL has been successful in convicting state-declared enemies, but not the state itself when abuses are alleged by the other side.

“Along with Cesista, they were forced to roll in the mud. The witnesses narrated that they were pleading with state forces to stop their inhumane acts but to no avail,” said NUPL-Cebu.

The security forces recovered six high and low-powered firearms, including one M653 assault rifle, one R4 assault rifle, one M16 rifle, and three Cal. .45 pistols.

A peoples’ lawyer

Cesista obtained her political science undergraduate degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Cebu. She obtained her law degree at the ranking law school of University of San Carlos (USC) in the same province.

Cesista was a member of NUPL-Cebu as a law student, and helped establish the students’ arm of the group’s Cebu chapter.

“During her law school days, Hannah volunteered at NUPL Cebu and was instrumental in forming the law students’ arm of the Cebu Chapter,” said NUPL-Cebu.

“She was always the first person to volunteer when lawyers needed assistance in the countless legal work of the organization. She joined community visits for paralegal training and discussions on human rights despite the demands of law school,” said the group.

Because Cesista was not a fully-fledged lawyer, she would not be included in the running tally of lawyers killed in the Philippines, which stands at 160 – spanning eight presidencies across more than four decades from the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr to the government of his son, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“[It’s] a grey area, but in any case she will not be listed in NUPL monitor because she was reportedly killed not in the exercise of her profession, even prima facie,” Olalia told Rappler.

“Let us carry on their legacies and make their lives and sacrifices as driving forces to serve the people in the best way we know how,” said Olalia, adding that the NUPL also recently lost another member due to stroke. “We just lost two gallant fighters with their boots on under different circumstances,” he said. – with reports from John Sitchon and Lian Buan/

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