THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has vehemently denied the allegations that troops used the body of slain New People’s Army combatant Jevilyn Campos Cullamat as a war trophy.
Cullamat was the daughter of Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Eufemia Campos Cullamat. She was killed in an encounter between the soldiers and an NPA unit in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur on November 28, 2020.
“The photo was taken for reporting and documentation purposes that is required after every encounter. It was not meant to scoff at the dead or demean the remains whose identity is not known to the soldiers,” AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement on Monday, November 30, 2020.
“And to be able to identify her, soldiers had to carry the dead body for half a day of hike from the site of the encounter where she was left behind by her NPA comrades to the lowland,” he added.
Arevalo said that how such photos went out to the media is already being investigated.
“It was not an AFP policy to pass a photo like that and a similar act constitutes a violation of our stringent policy. The matter is already being investigated. And the one who caused that faces sanctions,” he said.
A photo of Cullamat’s remains, with the face blurred, was included in a statement posted by the military on Kalinaw News. An unedited copy of the photo, however, circulated on social media.
The older Cullamat has condemned the AFP for disrespecting the remains of her daughter and blamed them for the spread of the photo.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also called out the military on Monday for using Cullamat’s body to display victory.
“It is a cause for concern when representatives of the government treat the death of another Filipino as victory. Time and again, we have condemned armed conflict because, in the end, nobody really wins, especially when it leads to ruined lives and communities,” CHR spokesperson Jaqueline de Guia said in a statement.
“However, in instances when armed atrocities are inevitable, we trust that all involved parties adhere to international humanitarian law (IHL) in limiting the effects of armed conflict. We cannot find good reason in posing for photos with the lifeless body of Jevilyn Cullamat, alongside seized firearms and communist flags,” the CHR added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said he saw nothing wrong with soldiers taking a photo with the body of a slain NPA member.
However, he said the AFP should review and determine the proper treatment to the slain individuals in order to protect their dignity and show respect to their families.
"Normal naman 'yung ginagawa ng military eh, ever since eh pinapakita natin 'yung mga namamatay, Abu Sayyaf, mga MNLF noon, MILF... siguro we will study kung papa’no natin mapangalagaan naman 'yung dignidad at saka 'yung privacy ng mga families," he said.
Arevalo said the AFP “deeply condoles” with the Cullamat family noting that the “senseless killing of and by fellow Filipinos—espoused and propagated by CTG leaders like Jose Maria Sison living luxuriously in some foreign land— should come to an end.”
“We can only pray for the many youth whose lives have been wasted by Sison’s deception and lies —including that of the daughter of the representative and other sorrowful mothers whose children have died or are now in the ranks of the NPA,” he said.
“We reach out to those who continue to fight for or advocate this meaningless battle. We urge them to return to the folds of the law, assist in peaceful but meaningful change, and help heal the wounds that widely divided our nation and its people. There should not be another Jevilyn Cullamat, or another Congresswoman Cullamat to suffer another loss for a senseless cause,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)