By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The multiplicity of the gunshot wounds sustained by volunteer teacher Chad Booc shows intent to kill.
This is how forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun described the gunshot wounds sustained by Booc, one of the victims killed in New Bataan, Davao De Oro.
Fortun presented her preliminary report to the media in a virtual press forum on Friday, March 11.
Fortun said Booc sustained very serious injuries to the trunk from multiple gunshot wounds. Many of his vital organs were lacerated like both of his lungs, both diaphragms, his liver and stomach, his ribs were fractured and his spinal cord was transected.
“Clearly these internal injuries are not compatible with life. I doubt even if he had been attended to medically and surgically that he would have survived, so it must have caused a fast death,” she said.
She said the multiple gunshots were close to each another, especially the one on the chest and the abdomen. Booc’s right elbow region was also severed, she said.
Fortun was able to recover one bullet from the left chest wall, which she said is consistent with a high velocity rifle.
As to how many gunshot wounds, Fortun said she is still in the process of analyzing these gunshots. She said the gunshots are complex because they are multiple and close to each other. In cases such as this, she said, the trajectory of each bullet is difficult to trace.
Fortun said that due to the many limitations, it is hard to tell if there was an encounter that took place. She said it is “best to look into the totality of evidence, meaning all bodies of the victims undergo forensic autopsy with an analysis on how they were shot and so on, correlated with the scene,” as well as the stories of the people on the ground or witnesses.
“But looking into the background of these people, I don’t think they’re armed combatants,” she said.
“Is this really the mindset of the armed state agents, that they will just shoot the non-combatants? Not only shooting to disable them but shooting to kill them,” Fortun said during an online press forum on Friday, March 11.
Meg Lim, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network, said the preliminary findings of the autopsy conducted on Booc “raises more questions into the massacre of Chad, his fellow Lumad school volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II, community health worker Elegyn Balonga, and their accompanying drivers Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon, collectively known as the New Bataan 5.”
Lim asserted that the five were unarmed when massacred by elements of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while they were on their way back to Davao City on the night of Feb. 23 after conducting a community visit in New Bataan, Davao de Oro.
“The circumstances surrounding their deaths continue to be even more deplorable now with the preliminary results of Chad Booc’s autopsy, where it was discovered that he sustained numerous gunshot wounds across the trunk,” Lim said.
Meanwhile, Lim also said that although there was no autopsy conducted on the other four victims, their families however noted some injuries.
“The initial observations of Jurain and Elegyn’s respective families on the bodies of the two are also similar — multiple gunshot wounds and bruises,” said Lim.
She added that Ngujo’s body sustained several gunshot wounds, and a part of the skin on his stomach and right thigh had been peeled off.
“Elegyn’s left leg had been cut off a few inches below the knee while her right foot was cut off near the ankle. The dismembered limbs were wrapped and re-attached using packaging tape,” Lim said.
There are also blood clots that formed on Balonga’s fingertips.
“Based on the visible marks on her body, she was also shot on her right knee and below the right elbow. Her jaw was also visibly torn off and her nose bridge was bruised,” Lim added.
“The AFP is trying its best to cover up this truth with the narrative of an ‘encounter,’ but the brutal evidence can speak otherwise. The AFP is growing more desperate to demonize a community volunteers and activists who only sought to bring aid to far-flung communities that remain neglected by the government. This desperation among the ranks of the military is even clearer now that the fascist Duterte regime is coming to an end,” Lim said.
Push for an independent investigation
Booc’s father Napoleon is pushing for a deeper investigation of what happened in New Bataan. He said what happened is still a mystery.
He added that he understands the difficulties in the autopsy of Booc’s body especially since his body was already embalmed when Fortun conducted the autopsy.
“Pieces of evidence were destroyed or compromised; this is why the family reiterate their call for a deeper investigation,” Lim said, translating Napoleon’s statement during the online forum.
Lim said that Feb. 23 to Feb. 25 is a long gap and there is no information about what transpired between those days.
“There is a long gap of time that we have no information of and these are information that we actually could know a little if evidence such as the clothes, the scene where they were allegedly killed, even the vehicle that they rode [are there] but all of these things have been washed away not just by incompetence but as well as of a really desperate attempt to hide the truth of the incident,” Lim said.
Fortun also said, “When and where they were killed is in question here… somebody is controlling the information. And that’s somebody who happens to kill them. And that’s so sinister.”
That is why, she said, this case really requires an investigation of an independent and objective body.
Indigenous people’s advocate and lawyer Antonio La Viña meanwhile called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an investigation.
He said the place where the incident happened is highly militarized. “It cannot be another private organization because we don’t want to add another civilian casualty here. It needs to be an independent government entity that would take the lead,” he said, adding that this is the next step before any legal steps can be taken.
Filing of charges against red-taggers
There is still much information and facts needed before charges can be filed against those who are behind the massacre of New Bataan 5, said La Viña. But he said, as an option, the family can file charges against government officials who red-tagged Booc.
Particularly, La Viña named the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy who consistently red-tagged Booc.
“But we leave it up for the family to decide. But that is one angle to explore as a step forward,” La Viña said.(RTS, RVO)