A 37-YEAR-OLD father of five children was reportedly killed in the aftermath of an encounter between the army and New People's Army (NPA) in Calinan District last February 16.

The indie-news group Breakaway Media reports that, Ariel Gelbero, a construction worker, hurried home to Lamanan village when he heard of the incident to secure his children.

He arrived to find the house empty and continued searching for his children until dark. He did not return.

His wife Maricel searched for him the next day, but was blocked by the soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Battalion. She explained to the soldiers and showed the photo of Ariel.

One soldier said “positive” and told her to go to Angel Funeral Homes. There she saw the body of Ariel, bloodied with hands and feet still tied.

Maricel believed the soldiers are responsible for her husband's death.

“Why did they do this to him? He's not an NPA, he's a construction worker. All he thought about was to save his children,” she said.

Last week, the NPA launched three attacks in the outskirts of Davao City in Paquibato and Calinan targetting the soldiers. Casualties were reported from both sides. Residents reported many soldiers were wounded and brought to a community hospital for treatment.

Another civilian, a habal-habal driver named Roel Satigngasin, was also reportedly killed by soldiers that night.

When the peace talks between the government and the Reds were called off by President Rodrigo Duterte last February 7, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año said they will hit their enemies hard.

But Ariel's family would be asking, why are civilians hit in this all-out war?

*****

The peace advocacy group Exodus for Justice and Peace had been campaigning and educating the public on the peace talks for the past six months. The group warned that the army's all-out war will hit civilians hardest.

Nine civilians and activists were killed after the lifting of the government ceasefire, according to the rights group Karapatan.

These include farmer Willerme Agorde, a farmer leader fighting for ownership of a land inside the University of Southern Mindanao-Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology, who was killed last February 19 in Roxas, North Cotabato by motorcycle-riding men.

Last February 16, a Mansaka lumad, Edweno Catog from Pantukan, a supporter of Marbai beneficiaries, was shot dead.

“The all-out war has already showed its consequence that of sacrificing human rights and peace in communities. This war only benefits the few, the generals and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who gain much from the US-military aid,” the group said.

The group recently joined the Ateneo de Davao community in a forum to discuss the better option for the government and the National Democratic Front to resume the peace talks.

“We cannot build this country on the cadavers of our fellow Filipinos,” said Ateneo de Davao University President Joel Tabora said during the forum.

“Peace” is a compelling reason to resume the talks, he added.

Tabora said, “When I voted for Duterte it was a vote for peace.” This was in support of Duterte's openness to talk peace to groups fighting the state.

He is saddened by the stoppage of the talks but joined peace groups in urging the president to listen and return to the peace table.

“We must stand behind the negotiation, for peace not for death," said Tabora.

The loss of lives outweighs all concerns like combatants and investments lost. This is what Duterte has wanted to address.

*****

As of this writing, the President has talked with Leftist members of the cabinet and is believed to be making a decision this week regarding the resumption of the peace talks.

All is not lost perhaps.

tyvelez@gmail.com