By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – The remains of five individuals killed in barangay San Juan, Baras, Rizal province in a shoot-out last December 17 are still missing, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan Southern Tagalog.
According to the group, an encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 2nd Infantry Division and suspected members of the revolutionary New People’s Army resulted in five casualties, but no remains. They suspect that the AFP is holding the bodies.
A report by the 2nd Infantry Division asserted that the five killed were NPA fighters. Brigadier General Alex Rillera, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, identified two of the fighters as “Ka Sandra” and “Ka Onli”.
A fact-finding mission conducted by Karapatan ST, however, said that there were also civilians killed, with at least one minor caught in the crossfire, following eyewitness accounts.
Should this information be confirmed, Karapatan ST states that this is in direct violation of international humanitarian law.
“Anybody who isn’t part of an armed force is a civilian. They are under the protection of IHL; the murder of civilians, and the involvement of children in the armed conflict directly violates these laws,” the group said in a statement.
Under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), “civilians or those taking no active part in the hostilities” are protected against “violence to life and person, particularly killing or causing injury.” Moreover, CARHRIHL also protects against “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict … and breach of duty to tender immediately such remains to their families or to give them decent burial.”
In reports released by the AFP, the encounter occurred around 2:30 a.m., apparently to serve an arrest warrant for frustrated murder to a certain Antonio Cule when the NPA fighters opened fire. They claimed that Cule, or “Ka Dads”is the head of finance staff and executive committee member of the NPA’s Sub-Regional Military Area 4A.
In 20018, Cule was implicated in charges of arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion following a bombing incident to a cell site owned by Globe Telecom, Inc. in Lemery, Batangas.
The NPA’s Eduardo Dagli Command, at the time, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Apart from Cule, the charges also implicated Reynaldo Malaborbor and Mario Caraig, alongside 15 others in the “conspiracy.”
Malaborbor was a longtime peasant leader and former political prisoner.
In November 2019, he was shot dead by an unknown assailant while walking home in barangay Banay-Banay, Cabuyao, Laguna.
Caraig, meanwhile, was an activist during the Martial Law era before joining the NPA’s Eduardo Dagli Command. In August 2020, he was killed by a combined force of the AFP and the Philippine National Police in Barangay San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna while tending to his injuries as hors de combat.
The December 17 encounter was the second in a week, following a December 14 report from the 2ID’s public information office which stated that the 203rd IB fought against “at least 20” NPA members in sitio Surong, Brgy. Aguas, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro.
According to the report, the encounter started around 6 a.m. and lasted 30 minutes, resulting in four killed on the NPA side – one female and three male.