THE body recovered from the gunbattle site in Barangay Astorga in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur last Saturday, April 21, 2018, was that of a 15-year-old combatant of the communist New People's Army (NPA).
Based on the report of Lieutenant Colonel Rhojun Rosales, commander of 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the fatality was identified as Rondi Ondo.
Ondo was 15 years old and was a resident of Sitio Tombo, Barangay Old Bulatukan, Makilala, North Cotabato.
He was identified by his mother Marissa A. Ondo at a funeral parlor in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur during a public identification, according to Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) public information officer Major Ezra Balagtey.
Ondo’s cadaver, which was clad in a black NPA uniform, was recovered after the gunbattle. Ondo was clutching an M16 Rifle.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco), Municipal Social Welfare Office of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur and the military facilitated the identification process.
"It's so sad to note that despite the worldwide call to spare children (from the) armed struggle, the NPA terrorists continued to arm them and use them. We condemn this practice in strongest term and challenge the NPA terrorists to spare them. Let children be children, and allow them to play, learn, enjoy and experience the beauty of being a child and spare them from indoctrinating hatred and violence," said Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of Eastmincom.
The troops facilitated the transport of the cadavers of Ondo and the other fatality identified as 62-year-old NPA Leader Julito Pueblas alias Taghoy, from Sitio Pangayasan, Barangay Kisante to their respective families and barangay officials of Kisante and Old Bulatukan.
Meanwhile, Jessa Lumana who was captured at the encounter site was already detained at Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Station and is facing criminal charges.
Under Part IV, Article 10 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), it specially states that children should not be allowed to take part in hostilities.
The firefight happened at around 11:25 a.m. last Saturday, April 21. The 39IB initiated a Focused-Military Operation targeting the group believed to be members of Guerilla Front 51, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee who were found in the forested outskirts of Sitio Bayongon, Barangay Astorga, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur after the troops received an information provided by a concerned citizen on alleged extortion activity of the rebels.
The battalion conducted combat operation and encountered undetermined numbers of NPAs under GF 51, SMRC at Sito Bayongon, Barangay Astorga, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. The firefight also resulted in confiscation of an M16 rifle, three improvised explosive devices, two rifle grenades, NDF and BHB Flags.