Do rebels who die in encounters end up with mutilated bodies? This appears to be a normal occurrence for the police who, reports show, do not seem to know the rules of war and engagement, but how does one explain it to the grieving relatives?
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Joe Licawen, a native of the Bodong (peace pact) practicing village of Sadanga, Mountain Province, went to a funeral parlor here (246 kms from Manila) and saw his brother’s mutilated body. As he was beset with anger and grief, he tried to calm himself to know the extent of what members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) did to his brother and why this had to happen.
Antonio Licawen (also known as Ka Leyap), a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), allegedly died in an encounter last Aug. 17 in Buguias, Benguet. There were several injuries in the different parts of his body. Joe noticed stab wounds on Antonio’s chest. Two of the three injuries penetrated the back of the victim. According to a source, the perpetrators used an ewek, or a pointed piece of wood used to kill a pig during rituals in the area, on the three injuries. The wounds were still open.
Aside from the ewek-caused injuries, Joe noticed at least seven gunshot wounds on his brother’s body, one of them on his brother’s head. He noticed that Antonio’s armpit “muscles” were removed. His brother’s right arm was also detached forcibly but was held by the skin from being separated.
The Benguet PNP claimed that Antonio died in an encounter between the former and NPA guerillas in Buguias. Joe, however, asks why his brother’s body became mutilated. If it were a legitimate encounter, why did his brother sustain many unnatural injuries? Are the rules of war being followed by the government’s PNP in encounters or in the capture of guerrillas?
Aug. 17 encounter
Other sources said however that two days after the Aug. 15 encounter between the 1604th Benguet Provincial Police Mobile Group (PMG) and the NPA Benguet Command in Baculungan Sur, Buguias, the said PNP team conducted clearing operations in the area.
The sources said the PNP team arrived in Baculungan Sur between 2 and 3 p.m. last Aug. 17 and went directly to a kalapaw (hut) near the Baney River where Antonio and his companion named Ka Tub-on sought refuge. The two, both unarmed, were overpowered and forcibly handcuffed by the PNP team. Inside the kalapaw, however, the PNP members inflicted several injuries on them.
Antonio, allegedly suffering from an ankle injury and unable to walk, and Ka Tub-on were dragged from the kalapaw to a road in Loy-odan where they were shot by the PNP team.
The PNP team allegedly covered the bodies of the two with canvass and transported them using a car provided by the PNP regional office in Camp Bado Dangwa. They passed by Buguias at about 5 p.m. and headed toward Baguio City. The bodies were then brought to Funeraria La Paz in Baguio City between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
According to sources, the PNP immediately left the area so that civilians will not notice the mutilated bodies of the two.
Coincidentally that morning of Aug. 17, the same PNP team was promoted in a press conference at Camp Bado Dangwa by PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao for their capture of five NPA rebels and the killing of two last Aug. 15.
For its part, the Benguet NPA Command said in an email statement that their two comrades were awaiting transportation to take Antonio, who had ankle injury, to a hospital. They also said that the two were unarmed during that time and should have been treated as non-combatants entitled to appropriate treatment.
The PNP team allegedly submitted an executive report stating that an encounter occurred last Aug. 17 resulting in the death of two NPA guerillas, namely Ka Debbie and Ka Jabli to Buguias Mayor Thomas R. Palileng, Sr, according to the sources. The two were later identified as Antonio and Ka Tub-on.
Rules of war
There are several international humanitarian laws that govern internal conflict. As a member of the United Nations and since these international laws were incorporated into our constitution, the Philippines is obliged to uphold these laws at all times, human rights advocates said. However, the Buguias incident proved otherwise.
Following more than three decades of internal conflict between the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), both sides have signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The agreement provides for the observance of the conduct of war between the two contending forces. A Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) was also created where violations committed by both sides are may be filed.
Joe says that these laws exist yet they are not strictly observed by the government troops. “It’s a long way to go, but I urge the government, particularly the PNP hierarchy, to investigate the inhuman acts committed by their men against my brother,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)