What we know so far: Nikka dela Cruz, the Cebuana killed in Negros Occidental encounter

John Sitchon

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What we know so far: Nikka dela Cruz, the Cebuana killed in Negros Occidental encounter

FROM CEBU TO NEGROS. Former activist and journalist Nikka dela Cruz is killed in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental.

Nikka dela Cruz Facebook page

The military says former activist and journalist Nikka Dela Cruz died during an encounter in July but the New People's Army (NPA) claims she was captured alive and killed

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Nikka dela Cruz, a former Cebu-based journalist and activist, was among four confirmed communist rebels killed in a clash with the military in Negros Occidental on July 6.

According to a July 11 statement by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Dela Cruz and three others were killed during active combat.

However, the New People’s Army Negros Island Regional Operational Command spokesperson Juanito Magbanua in a July 8 statement said the four were killed when they were resting and ill.

Who was Nikka dela Cruz?

Dela Cruz, 26, was a native of Danao City and the youngest daughter of three siblings.

She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of San Jose – Recoletos and was a former staff of the local alternative media outlet ANINAW Productions.

According to alternative media outfit Kodao, Dela Cruz was also a former reporter of GMA Regional in Cebu and its radio news station DYSS. 

A search on Facebook showed several reports on DYSS’ page that were attributed to Dela Cruz in 2019.

Rappler reached out to the station but a manager declined to confirm if Dela Cruz was a full-time reporter with them. He said that they would issue a statement on her death in the coming days.

What happened

The AFP said De la Cruz was killed on Wednesday, July 6 during an encounter with the 94th Infantry Battalion and the 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company of the Philippine Army in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental.

However, the NPA, through Magbanua, claimed in a statement that the communist rebels were not killed during an encounter, but instead, “slaughtered”.

“It was a massacre. The said Red fighters were captured earlier and their medical condition rendered them incapable to fight,” he said.

Dela Cruz, identified as Ka Chai, died alongside Roel “Ka Jack” Ladera, Alden “Ka Rocky” Rodriguez, and Roel “Ka Caloy” Deguit. Both the NPA and military confirmed those who were killed were NPA members. Activist groups are now referring to them as the “Binalbagan 4.”

Alleged harassment at wake

A military officer was caught taking photos and recording conversations during Dela Cruz’s wake on Tuesday, July 12.

Police patrolman Randy Yurag of the Medellin Police Station told Rappler that the person accused of spying was identified as Adriano Antipuesto of the 53rd Engineering Brigade.

Nabantayan siya nagpicture-picture unya nag voice record siya didto (He was seen taking pictures and using voice recording at the scene),” he said.

When he was approached, Antipuesto tried convincing the family that he was only a distant relative. De la Cruz’s older sibling who was at the wake debunked his claim.

ANINAW Productions reported that after a scuffle, Dela Cruz’s relatives managed to grab Antipuesto’s phone, which had photos and recordings of wake-goers at the scene.

“The gallery contained screenshots of the Facebook profiles and posts of two student leaders and one human rights worker, who were all present at the wake,” ANINAW said.

They added that Antipuesto was allegedly tasked with confirming the identity of a “Jovie Rosales” in the area of the wake. 

Rosales is the current chairperson of Panaghugpong-Kadamay Cebu.

Kini tataw nga pagbastos sa nagbangutang pamilya ug kauban, hilabi na sa malinawong pagpahimutang sa lawas ni Nikka,” Panaghugpong-Kadamay Cebu wrote in a statement.

(This was an outrageous act of disrespect to the grieving family and friends, especially to the peaceful resting of Nikka’s body)

A video of De la Cruz’s family confronting Antipuesto can be seen on Panaghugpong-Kadamay Cebu’s official Facebook page.

According to police, he was brought to the station on the evening of Tuesday where they found out that he was carrying a .32 caliber pistol with ammunition. 

The police urged the family to file a blotter report, but they later decided not to push through with the case.

Antipuesto was released around 11 am on Thursday, July 14. – Rappler.com

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