By Davao Today
DAVAO CITY – A “special investigating body” of the “Compostela Valley People’s Democratic Government” has recommended “an order for the immediate arrest and commencement of the trial” of 23 respondents composed of army, police and government civilian personnel implicated in the “murder” of Roque Antivo.
Roque Antivo was killed in a strafing incident which allegedly involved military men of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion last April 3 in a road near their farm in Sitio Kidaraan, Barangay Anitapan, Mabini, Compostela Valley. The military has maintained that Antivo was killed due to an encounter between the AFP and the New People’s Army.
Two survivors of the incident pointed to the military as responsible for the shooting while Antivo’s father positively identified a certain Lieutenant Llorca as the commanding officer of the group who led the strafing against his sons and brother in law.
The 11-page “indictment,” signed last December 10 during the International Human Rights Day was signed by an “investigating body” composed of Members Osang Quijano and Mario Renante and Head Julius Senajon.
It laid down 12 “facts and circumstances” to “support” the charges against the respondents for “planning, aiding, abetting and conspiring in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of Human rights and international humanitarian law in the murder of Roque Antivo and frustrated murders of Jefrey Hernan and Earl Jhun Antivo.”
At the height of the furor in April caused by Antivo’s killing, Compostela Provincial Police Directo Camilo Pancratius Cascolan said the identified military officers were “restricted to barracks.” The police office later recommended that cases be filed against the unit but did not progress.
In the indictment paper, the investigating body said they found “probable cause” to charge with “murder” and “frustrated murder” 2Lt. Felipe D. Llorca, Jr., the commander officer of a unit under the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion and 12 soldiers under his command.
Llorca’s higher-ups in the Battalion level Lt. Col. Jerry T. Borja of the 71st Infantry Battalaion, his Brigade Commander Col. Angelito de Leon of the 1001st Brigade, the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command Commanding General Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz, III and 10th Infantry Division Civil Military Operations officer Major Jake Obligado were also implicated for “acts of bribery and for influencing the victim’s family to deny justice and erase culpability of the responsible Army unit.
The “investigating body singled out” Obligado as he “was said to have offered scholarship and small amount to the Antivos to prevent them from filing charges against the Army” to which Ms. Evelyn Antivo, Roque’s mother, “refused.”
Police officers and members of the crime laboratory of the Mabini police were “charged” for “having committed the cover-up in the crimes by “presenting, giving credence and by upholding the clearly tampered evidence at the crime scene and for deliberately showing two sets of bullets to insinuate that two armed groups were involved in an armed encounter.”
Meanwhile, Provincial Prosecutor Graciano Arafol, Jr. based in Nabunturan was also cited in the indictment for having dismissed the case filed by the victim’s family. The investigating body criticized Arafol for “relying heavily on the respondents’ unsubstantiated and self-serving alibis of a phantom encounter between the responsible AFP unit and the NPA.”
Other respondents in the document includes Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista for their role in the formulation and implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, “which involves military campaigns of suppression, including the brutal killing of adults and children through bombings, strafing, among others.”
Del Mundo said that children who are already “exploited on account of poverty and oppression” are “deliberate targets of AFP operations in hapless communities that are suspected to be under the control or are supportive of the revolutionary movement.”
The indictment document also cited ”historical agrravating circumstances” implicating the 71st IB and its officers for its involvement in the harassment of a teacher, mauling of a civilian, and killing of a girl in 2011.