By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
Posted by Bulatlat.com
BAGUIO CITY— The family of an Ilocos Sur peasant believed to have been murdered by elements of the 5th Division of the Philippine Army last September demanded justice for their kin as they denounced claims of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army that the murder victim was a New People’s Army guerrilla.
“I demand justice for my husband,” Elma Valdez, 33, widow of peasant Elmer Valdez, declared in a press conference last October 13.
Ealier, Nordis reported that Elmer, a resident of Brgy. Conconig East, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur, was seized by army troopers operating in Sta. Lucia on September 10. Elmer went missing for several days. Later, his body was found in a shallow grave, in the early stage of decomposition.
“We are not members of the New People’s Army. We are simple citizens fighting poverty,” Elmer’s wife said as she struggled to hold back her tears.
Elma shared that they had been living a hard but relatively happy life. She described her husband as “a good man, working hard to provide for his family.” She said that in between working the fields, he makes bamboo crafts to augment their meager income. She added that he also catches fish at night for additional food and income.
“We had nothing to fear when soldiers were not in our community. Elmer went home peacefully even in the wee hours,” she recalled.
Elma’s voice cracked and tears rolled down her cheeks when she said, “They destroyed a happy family. We are not doing anything against the government.” In between sobs she said, “They deprived my daughter of the love and care of a father. Who would help me raise my daughter now?”
The Search for Elmer’s body
Rizalino, Elmer’s father, told the media that they are sure soldiers took away his son. “No one else went to the direction my son went to, except soldiers.”
He narrated that on September 10, when military troopers went to their barangay at around 10:00 a.m., his son was gathering bamboo a few meters away. He said in Iloco that the bamboo area was very near they could hear the sound of his bolo hitting the bamboo. Rizalino said his daughter-in-law heard Elmer groan, “as if somebody was hitting him.”
“So I called Elmer. He replied to my first call. But when I called him again, he did not reply anymore, we heard gunshots instead,” Rizalino said in Iloco.
He narrated that later in the afternoon of the same day, when soldiers carrying body bags passed by their house, Elma saw Elmer’s socks in one of the body bags.
When Rizalino asked the soldiers if he could check the body bag where his son’s socks were protruding, the soldiers refused. They told him that they were bringing down bodies of their colleagues who were killed in an encounter. Rizalino explained that his son wore socks as he was wearing rubber boots when he went to gather bamboo.
Rizalino accused the army of trying to cover up the murder of his son when later on the army began branding his son, Elmer Valdez, as an NPA. Rizalino said he had asked the soldiers if they saw Elmer. Gen. Romel Gomez, 5th Division Commanding Officer, told him to ask the NPAs regarding the whereabouts of his son because Elmer had allegedly followed them.
“The military should stop denying they committed murder. Evidences show that it is their doing,” Rizalino said.
Evidence of Torture
Barangay Conconig East Kagawad Romy Rabang has declared that there were marks in Elmer’s body indicating that he had been tortured before he was killed. Elmer’s head was cut off, his t-shirt was used to tie his arms, and wounds on his back suggested that he may have been dragged on the ground, Rabang said.
It was Rabang, accompanied by two of Elmer’s kin and two Scene of the Crime (SOCO) operatives, who had retrieved the victim’s body from a makeshift grave. Rabang said the military only permitted them to retrieve the body when they learned that a 300-hundred strong search team had been organized by barangay officials not only of Conconig East but of other nearby barangays as well to search the area with or without permission of the military.