MANILA — The National Democratic Front in Negros (NDF-Negros) said peace consultant and poet Ericson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez were stabbed and hacked, belying claims of the military that the two died during a gunfight in Kabankalan City last Nov. 30.
NDF-Negros Spokesperson Bayani Obrero said that according to Jimenez’s family, soldiers from the 94th and 47th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army first strafed the house were Acosta and Jimenez have taken shelter to rest before dawn yesterday.
Obrero added that Acosta and Jimenez were then “taken forcefully and then ‘salvaged’ (summarily killed).” The bodies of the two also “have indications that they were stabbed and hacked.”
In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan said initial reports by its local chapter in Negros indicate that Acosta and Jimenez were captured alive as of 2 a.m. of Nov. 30 in Sitio Makilo, barangay Camansi. However hours later, they were tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as casualties in a “fake encounter.”
“Residents also said that the bodies of the two bore stab wounds. Acosta was also said to be recuperating from illness in the said community,” Karapatan Secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
NDF-Negros said the deaths of Acosta and Jimenez “raised the number of fake encounters in Negros under the [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. regime to 14.”
The group added that Jimenez was the seventh farmer killed on the island by state forces since July 2022.
“All peasant killings were notably declared by state forces as ‘encounters’,” Obrero said.
The house where the two victims were taken belongs to a Ronald Francisco, who was also taken by the soldiers to the 47th IB headquarters, along with his wife and three children, NDF-Negros said.
Francisco’s family could not contact them while the local police station dismissed their requests for a blotter report, it added.
Karapatan called on the government to surface the Francisco family.
The 94th IB claimed yesterday that Acosta and Jimenez were part of a ten-man New People’s Army (NPA) team that engaged government soldiers in two separate fire fights in two sites that are 100 meters apart.
The military added that the “encounters” happened within 15 minutes of each other.
Meanwhile, church and civil society leaders called for an impartial and independent investigation of the incident in light of reports that the victims were captured alive before declared dead by the military hours later.
“In light of this information, as well as the numerous cases in the past of such fabricated stories to cover up acts of summary execution, Pilgrims for Peace calls for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by both the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), so that an impartial investigation may be conducted,” they said.
The group also called on the Commission on Human Rights to do the same. They said that if reports are true, “the AFP must be taken to task for this abomination, which is part and parcel of a militaristic, ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach to the long running armed conflict with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA.”
Signatories of the statement were Iglesia Filipina Independiente Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza and representatives of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response, Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.
They were joined by the groups ACT for Peace, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, Gabriela, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
In a statement, farmers’ group Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) also condemned the deaths of Acosta and Jimenez as well as the abduction of the Francisco family, saying the military may have violated the international humanitarian law.
“Hurting civilians and attacking their home is considered a war crime, even maltreating armed rebels when they have already been captured,” UMA said in Filipino.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also expressed its strongest condemnation to the killing of Acosta – their former client, and Jimenez.
The group said that the military “have no regard for the laws and the rights of the people and as records indicate, unabashedly kill even those who, like Ericson and his companion, are incapable of defending themselves.”
“The security forces of the Philippine Government have once again shown its lack of respect for human rights and/or international humanitarian law,” the group said in a statement. (With reports from Anne Marxze D. Umil) Reposted by