Rights group urges military to surface missing activist

Kemuel Ian Cometa. (Photo from Marc Owell Ama Facebook post)


MANILA – An alumnus of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños and former Kabataan Party-list Southern Tagalog coordinator is still missing after reportedly being wounded in a police and military operation in barangay Macabiling, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, last May 21.

Karapatan-Timog Katagalugan identified the victim as Kemuel Ian “KI” Cometa whose whereabouts are still unknown up to this writing. Three others namely, Christopher Boton, Cristina Estocado and and Rommel Rizza all died in the operation, the group said.

Karapatan-TK received a report of an alleged encounter between the 202nd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the members of the Philippine National Police-Sta. Rosa and the New People’s Army which prompted the group to conduct an initial investigation.

Contrary to the news reports that there are only three casualties, investigation by the group revealed that there were actually four. The fourth turned out to be Cometa, who, according to the witnesses, was wounded.

On May 30, Karapatan-TK dispatched a humanitarian team in Camp General Nakar, AFP Southern Luzon Command Headquarters to inquire about Cometa but they did not get any information from the military.

Meanwhile, friends of Cometa called on the authorities to surface him.

The nanlaban narrative

In a news report, PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar claimed that the police and military enforced a warrant of arrest issued by Mauban, Quezon Regional Trial Court Branch 64 Presiding Judge Rodolfo Obnamia, Jr. against Rizza. The three individuals allegedly fired at the team of the military and police that led to their death.

But this is different from Karapatan-TK’s investigation. The group said that according to the witnesses, “the joint police and military units arrived at Buena Rosa 9 Subdivision in barangay Macabling at around 1:00 p.m., May 21, targeting the Blue Sky and Greenhouse Transient House where the four individuals stayed; three male and one female.”

“The police and military immediately barged through the premises and opened fire, with one officer shouting ‘Huwag kayong lalaban! (Don’t fight back!)’, followed by gunfire.”

The group said the proprietor of the house confirmed that there were four individuals who stayed in the transient house. The fourth individual was taken by state forces, the group added.

They also said that the evidence gathered in the scene, which include weapons, were also planted.

Meanwhile, Karapatan-TK also reported on the delaying scheme by the authorities to release the remains of those who were killed.

The remains of Boton were released to his relatives today, June 2 or 12 days after. The remains of Estocado were released to her family after eight days, May 29, while Rizza’s remains were released to his family after five days, May 26.

The families were also being harassed by the authorities and asking them for information about the deceased, the group said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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