Negros Occidental

Slain farmer’s kin allege Army settlement bid amid probe into Negros clashes

Erwin Delilan

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Slain farmer’s kin allege Army settlement bid amid probe into Negros clashes

KILLED. Soldiers carry a body found at an encounter site in Escalante City in Negros Occidental on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

303rd Infantry Brigade

The Commission on Human Rights starts an investigation into the deaths of villagers during alleged fierce encounters, including an airstrike in Escalante City, in February

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The family of one of those who were killed during a military operation in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, a month ago, claimed on Wednesday, March 20, that an Army battalion commander and soldiers went to their home with cash and goods, and a promise of more aid in what they saw as an attempt to broker a settlement with them.

The revelation by Charlene Caramihan came the same day the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) started an investigation into the deaths of villagers during alleged fierce encounters between rebel and government forces, including a military airstrike on February 22.

Charlene’s father, Jose, was among three people killed during an alleged two-day encounter in Sitio Mansulao, Barangay Pinapugasan in Escalante City.

The elder Caramihan was known as a farmer and woodcutter, but the Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (79th IB) asserted that he was a member of the New People’s Army’s-North Negros Front (NPA-NNF) who was known as “Ka Joe.”

Charlene and her family vehemently denied the military’s allegations, insisting that Jose was not a rebel and that he was regarded as a “responsible and respectable” man in their community.

Charlene alleged that the soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Calaoagan of the 79th IB, visited their home, engaged in conversation, and offered more assistance for their future.

On Tuesday, March 19, the military said in a statement that they reached out to the Caramihan family on March 8.

The visit, according to Calaoagan, ended with the Caramihan family accepting support from the 79th IB, including a guarantee of military aid so Jose’s three daughters could avail themselves of scholarships.

Calaoagan said, “It is also with deep sorrow and pain for us to witness a life lost as a sacrifice of those who use the vulnerable to justify their senseless ideology.”

Charlene, however, said her family accepted P5,000 in aid and a supply of rice and canned goods brought by the soldiers.

She said Calaoagan’s group promised her employment after her college graduation this year.

“Wala ko medawat (I didn’t accept it),” she said, adding that her siblings were also reluctant to accept offers of educational aid because it could jeopardize their quest for justice.

Charlene said Calaoagan left his business card and told them they could call him anytime if they had made up their minds about the offer.

“Kon batonon namo ang support pwedi ba sigehon ang investigation or kon magpa-investigate kami bawi-on ba nila ang support?” Charlene asked.

(If we accept the support, can we continue the investigation, or if we decide to pursue our cause, will they withdraw their support?)

Charlene vowed to continue seeking justice for her father, whom she said was innocent and a victim of false accusations.

CHR-Negros Director Vincent Parra told Rappler that they had started their investigation into the hostilities in Pinapugasan, including the February 22 airstrike, which local officials and church leaders questioned.

San Carlos City Bishop Gerardo “Gerry” Alminaza has called the airstrike “disproportionate.” –

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