Church leaders, human rights advocates, and PEN Philippines, the national chapter of the international group of writers, on Thursday, December 1, called for a probe into the November 30 deaths of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Ericson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Rights group Karapatan on Thursday, December 1, called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into “the reported summary execution” of Acosta and Jimenez.
The rights watchdog said Acosta was recuperating from an unspecified illness when he was killed. Karapatan urged authorities to respect the rights of the families of the deceased and their legal representatives, in their efforts to have access and claim the remains of their loved ones.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos and Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang signed a call by Pilgrims for Peace with 10 other church leaders, and human rights advocates.
“The details surrounding his death need to be thoroughly and impartially investigated due to possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Pilgrims for Peace said.
PEN Philippines urged the Philippine government “to perform a full and fair investigation, and serve justice,” as it condemned the tragic death of Acosta.
Other groups joined the call, citing the need to unravel conflicting claims by the 62nd Infantry Battalion in Negros Occidental and the NDF Negros on the November 30 early morning clash in Kabankalan City.
Pilgrims for Peace said that Acosta worked on and contributed to the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) between the government and the NDF.
Pablo Tariman, the father of Acosta’s late wife Kerima Tariman, who died on August 22, 2021 in an encounter in Silay City, told Rappler that the family, including Acosta’s mother, Liwayway, would fly to Negros Occidental on Friday to claim his remains.
“We will have him autopsied, then cremated,” Tariman said, without giving further details.
The military dismissed as “propaganda” the statements of various groups questioning Acosta’s death.
“Obviously, the CPP-NPA-NDF will churn out propaganda statements in order to generate sympathy from the community whenever they suffer major setbacks. They will always claim that there was no firefight or encounter whenever the situation does not favor them,” 303rd Brigade Commander Brigadier General Inocencio Pasaporte said in a statement.
The 62IB claimed that Acosta was the deputy secretary of Komiteng Rehiyon- Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor (KR-NCBS) and head of the Political Unified Committee (PUC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Visayas.
The unit said that the NPA central leadership deployed Acosta and Kerima to Negros Island in 2018 “because of the internal squabbles and problems inside the NPA organization and also due to the dwindling political cadres in Negros Island.”
Acosta, the military added, was also a member of the Pambansang Kalihiman sa Edukasyon (PAKED) or the rebels’ national education committee, which placed him at the highest implementing body of the KR-NCBS.
On November 30, the military announced the deaths of two then unidentified rebels in an encounter at 2 am in Sitio Makilo, Barangay Camansi, Kabankalan.
Later that day, after NDF-Negros confirmed Acosta’s death, the 62IB released a second statement saying former comrades had also confirmed his identity.
Karapatan Negros called the reported clash “a fake encounter.”
The rights group said that “residents of Sitio Makilo attest that Jimenez and Acosta were captured alive in the wee hours of the morning,” and that the bodies of Jimenez and Acosta allegedly bore stab wounds.
BAYAN secretary-general Renato Reyes said “the manner of killing is consistent with many summary executions made to appear as ‘encounters’ and ‘firefights’.”
Reyes said Acosta was an NDF consultant who helped draft the agreement on socio-economic reforms in the 2016-2017 peace talks.
Acosta, he added, participated in the formal peace talks and discussions of the reciprocal working committees.
Karapatan said he should have been covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). – Rappler.com