The Aggay family was on their way to Villa Cielo village in Gattaran, Cagayan when the two armed men fired at them.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A seven-member family belonging to Aggay tribe were in the area only to gather bamboo shoots and rattan when two armed men believed to be members of the military fired at them. Julito Rosal died instantly and two others were injured.
According to a report by Karapatan-Cagayan Valley, on Feb. 9, the Aggay family was on their way to Villa Cielo village in Gattaran, Cagayan when the two armed men fired at them.
Elvis Rosal sustained shrapnel wounds. (Photo courtesy of Katribu Partylist / bulatlat.com)
The first volley of fire hit Rosal on the forehead, back and hip and killed him instantly. Severely injured were his younger brother Elviz, single, and younger sister Clarita. Clarita was hit at the lower back while Elviz sustained shrapnel wounds on his neck and shoulder. Rosal’s brother Danilo and wife Zenaida did not sustain any physical injury. Two other members of the family were able to flee.
According to eyewitness accounts, the assaulting team, believed to be military agents of the Army unit based in the area used shotguns, UZI, M-16 and M-14 rifles.
“On mere suspicion that the Aggays were members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA), armed government troops could just aim at innocent civilians,” Beverly Longid, president of the party-list group Katribu, said in a statement.
Longid was with the recently concluded fact-finding mission that looked into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Rosal, married with five children, from Padungsol village, Gattaran, Cagayan.
Rosal’s sister Shirley and her husband Joel Andres, also of Padungsol, escaped death by running and hiding, after which they sought the help of village folks to retrieve Rosal’s body and brought the injured to the hospital.
The Rosal family is one among eight Aggay families at the foot of a hill. The area is the site of mineral exploration activities that extract magnetite, black stone and pyrite, which usually contains gold ore.
“As mountain-dwellers, indigenous peoples are usually hunters and food-gatherers who work deep into the forests. We have been mistaken as armed rebels, and therefore shot at, several times in the past,” said Longid.
The Regional Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police (RMG-PNP) is stationed about five kilometers from the site of the incident.
Days before the attack, the Rosals reportedly noticed armed men in the vicinity of their house.
All the victims and the survivors belong to the Aggay or Agta tribe, one of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Madre mountain range and members of the Agta Association of Cagayan Valley. Their exact ages are unknown as their births are unregistered similar to many indigenous peoples. The victims and their families have all relocated after the incident from Buguey to Padungsol village, Gattaran, Cagayan for fear for their lives and safety.
Zenaida Rosal sustained injury in her belly. (Photo courtesy of Katribu Partylist / bulatlat.com)
The Agtas of Cagayan are among the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Madre and define parts of the range as their territory or ancestral land. As original inhabitants of the area, they are highly familiar with its terrain. They are highly dependent on the forest for their survival and livelihood.
Traditionally nomadic, they hunt and gather forest products and engage in swidden farming for their daily sustenance. In order to augment their needs, they gather other products such as rattan and bamboo to sell.
Katribu believes that the Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino administration does not distinguish between civilians and rebels. The party list group has documented cases of killings of indigenous peoples and their local leaders since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office. Two Dumagat leaders from Tanay, Rizal also became victims of extrajudicial killing in July 2010.