Soldiers blocking rights groups’ access to father of minor slain in ‘fake encounter’

Karapatan ST humanitarian team arrives at the home of the victim’s family. (Contributed photo)

Rights groups seeking to investigate the death of a nine-year-old girl in Taysan, Batangas province have been prevented by soldiers from talking to the victim’s family. Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said the military is preventing the truth from coming out.

By JUSTIN UMALI
Bulatlat.com

SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – The father of the nine-year old killed during a shooting incident in barangay Guinhawa, Taysan, Batangas province cannot be reached by humanitarian teams meant to investigate the incident, according to human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog.

In a July 30 update posted by the group on social media, Karapatan ST sent a fact-finding mission to Taysan in order to investigate claims that a child was killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 59th Infantry Battalion last July 18. When the team arrived, however, they were met with “elements of the 59th IBPA in civilian clothes.”

On their arrival to the house of the victim’s family, the team was not able to speak to Benie Casao, the victim’s father. Karapatan ST notes at least four soldiers posted at Casao’s residence, led by a Lt. Pernie Pangilinan. Soldiers posted at Casao’s residence told the team that Casao was in the municipal hall of Taysan.

“Lt. Pangilinan and the 59th IBPA are forcing a sort of Martial Law in terrorizing the people of Taysan,” said Karapatan ST. “Lt. Pangilinan and her commander Lt. Col. [Ernesto] Teneza are afraid of the public learning the truth: that there was no encounter in [Sitio] Sentro.”

The 59th IBPA is adamant in insisting that the July 18 incident was the result of an armed encounter between the military and members of the NPA. The military claims that the bullet which killed Casao’s daughter came from the NPA side.

Read: Fake encounters vs. Reds in Batangas result in 2 civilian deaths

Rights advocacy group Mothers and Children for the Protection of Human Rights (MCPHR) also claimed that state forces were preventing them from conducting their humanitarian work in Taysan.

According to MCPHR, elements of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) prevented their humanitarian team from interviewing and providing psychosocial services to Casao and his family. Additionally, at least four Cafgu members “took videos and pictures without their permission,” while Pangilinan “insisted on taking [their] IDs and asking for a mayor’s permit.”

“In truth, no permit is needed when providing services to victims of human rights violations,” MCPHR said in their statement. The group also stated that Casao wouldn’t “step outside his home due to fear and trauma” as a result of the increased military presence.

No humanitarian team has yet to contact Benie Casao directly.

Conflicting reports

Reports on the ground collected by groups like MCPHR, Karapatan ST, and rights group Tanggol Batangan refute the military’s claims. According to a relative, the victim was walking with her older brother and their father, Benie Casao, when they chanced upon “four or five elements of the 59th IBPA.” Casao reportedly raised his hands and stated that he “[was] not an NPA” while ordering his children to flee.

The relative said a soldier shot the victim at the back of her head, killing her instantly.

Casao immediately brought her remains to the municipal hall to ask for assistance. Taysan Mayor Grande Gutierrez reportedly provided a cardboard box for the victim’s remains. Since then, military presence in Taysan has not subsided.

The 59th IBPA has since countered that there are “active supporters of the … CPP-NPA-NDF” working within rights groups like MCPHR and Tanggol Batangan, claiming that they “overtly distort the truth and weave lies.”

MCPHR has gone on to state that the 59th IBPA should “be held accountable” for its “lies and merciless violation of human rights,” naming in particular a 2nd Lt. Dimaano and Sgt. Bajaro as those responsible for the killing.

The shooting incident in Taysan is part of a larger series of incidents involving the 59th IBPA in Batangas, including two supposed ‘encounters’ in the municipalities of Calaca and Lobo last July 25 and 26 respectively. The Calaca ‘encounter’ resulted in the death of Maximino Digno, a local farmer with mental disabilities. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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