MANILA – A National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant, national minorities and progressive groups gave tribute to the nine “Lacub martyrs” who were killed by the military in Lacub, Abra province three years ago.
Calling them banwar ti umili or heroes of the people, their families and groups read poems and sang songs in tribute to them on Sept. 7, during the Cordillera cultural solidarity night at sitio Sandugo, the Lakbayan camp at the Equine Stud Farm in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Three years ago, on Sept. 4 to 6, 2014, seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and two civilians were killed by the Philippine Army’s 41st infantry battalion during its “overkill” operations in Guinguinabang, Lacub. They were suspected to have been captured and killed, in violation of international humanitarian laws.
The two civilians killed were NGO worker Engineer Fidela “Delle” Bugarin Salvador and Lacub farmer Noel Viste. The seven NPA members were: Arnold Jaramillo, Brandon Magranga, Recca Noelle Monte, Pedring Banggao, Robert Beyao, Robert Perez and Ricardo Reyes.
Except for Jaramillo, Monte and Salvador, all six others belong to the Cordilleran tribes. Among the NPA members, most came from student and peasant organizations before they decided to join the armed struggle.
Kennedy Bangibang, a Taluktok-Kalinga and NDFP consultant for Cordillera affairs, said it is a “revolutionary task” to remember the martyrs of the people’s struggle and find inspiration from the lives they led. His wife Monte, who went by the nom de guerre “Ka Tet,” was among those killed.
“The tasks and aspirations they left behind now inspire us to persevere even more in our struggle, especially in the face of intensified national oppression of national minorities,” he said in a statement in Filipino.
Bangibang said more Filipinos are pushed to struggle against the worsening oppression and exploitation under President Duterte. He was among the peace consultants released on bail last year to participate in the peace talks with government. Following the collapse of the peace negotiations and the announcement by Solicitor General Jose Calida government to arrest the NDFP consultants, Bangibang and others have since reportedly returned underground.
He was arrested in 2013, and was still in detention when the incident happened.
“We, as the national minorities, along with scores of the oppressed under the rotten system, must firmly unite, make a stand and struggle to achieve genuine freedom, democracy, justice and self-determination,” Bangibang said.
During the Cordillera cultural night, relatives of the Lacub martyrs remembered their loved ones in poems and songs.
Nelson Salvador, widower of Engineer Fidela “Delle” Salvador, described his wife as a “faith-motivated person,” and read a poem written by Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, secretary general of te United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
Jaramillo’s daughter, Raia, along with musicians Mike Cabangon and Jason Versoza, gave a rendition of a song based on the poem “Para sa aking mga anak (For my children). ” Jaramillo wrote the poem while based in the guerilla front and far from his family.
Jaramillo’s widow, Cynthia Dacanay-Jaramillo read a poem by NDFP consultant Wilma Tiamzon, who was still in detention in Camp Crame when the incident happened in 2014. The poem spoke of how the revolutionary martyrs rest in peace with the certainty that they many others will take their place in the struggle.
“Ay langit, ay lupa, ang nangabuwal na mga anak ko sa dilim
Hayun at payapang nakahimlay, sila’y natatanuran ng laksa-laksang lumalaban.”