THE military and police said on Wednesday they are confident that the raid on a small village in Bukidnon last week can stand legal scrutiny if questioned in court by human rights organizations.
Bukidnon police director Edgar Daniel Jr., said the raid in Barangay White Kulaman, Kitaotao town last August 26 was covered by a search warrant issued by acting executive Judge Maritess Bernales of the Regional Trial Court Branch 39 in Misamis Oriental.
“The judge found our request to search in order. The search warrant covered 57 houses in Barangay White Kulaman. We are confident it will stand the scrutiny,” Superintendent Daniel said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Earlier, Bayan Muna lawmaker Representative Isagani Zarate told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro he found it “highly irregular” that Judge Bernales issued a “general“search warrant that covers 57 houses in Barangay White Kulaman.
Zarate said the army and police operation was nothing but a “Gestapo-like raid” considering the search warrant is “defective.”
He said search warrants are specifically applied to individuals with “specific addresses.”
Rebellion, illegal possession of firearms
Meanwhile, charges of rebellion and illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed at the Regional Trial Court in Malaybalay City against 11 residents of Barangay White Kulaman on Wednesday.
The army presented chairman Felipe Cabugnasan of Barangay White Kulaman who said he and some members of their council were the ones who provided the “details and specifics” where the firearms and explosives of the New People’s Army were hidden.
“We became fed up by the abuses of the NPA. They asked everything from us even our Internal Revenue Allotment; Disaster management funds. It was too much,” Cabugnasan told reporters Wednesday.
He said the NPA rebels who came to their village in 2003 have gotten so embolden that they even exacted daily revolutionary tax of P200 a day on small vendors and chainsaw operators.
Army Captain Jonald Fallar obtained the search warrant from Judge Bernales after presenting the sketches and information from Cabugnasan.
Meanwhile, Superintendent April Madrono, assistant regional director of the PNP Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) said they found gunpowder residues on the hands of all five NPA rebels killed by the soldiers in Pangantucan town last August 19.
“Four of the rebels have gunpowder burns in both of their hands while one of the dead rebel had only gunpowder burns in one hand, “Madrono said.
“Meaning these persons fired their weapons when they were killed,” she added.
Karapatan and other militant organizations claimed the five rebels were not NPA members but farmers summarily executed by the soldiers.
Pangantucan 5 not rebels
In a statement released by Karapatan in Northern Mindanao on Wednesday, Emer Somina, Ramil Somina, Norman Samia, Jobert Samia, and Herminio Samia were only farmers living in Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, according to relatives and neighbors of the five.
The statement said that village chief Victor Klerigo even identified to Karapatan the five were not members of the New People's Army (NPA) but were “visible” and “regular” residents in the community. Karapatan also found 'legal documents' proving the identities of the five alleged members of the rebel group.
Among the documents were certificate of membership with the government project 4Ps, voter's and PhilHealth IDs.
Karapatan also said the victims' deep wounds located on their necks were indication that they were not killed in the encounter with the government troops.
"Aduna sila’y mga laglum na samad na mura ug gipanggulgol gamit ang hait na instrumento, subay sa mga nikuha sa patayng lawas sa mga biktima," Fr. Christopher Ablon, spokesperson of Karapatan-NorMin said.
He also said those who carried the victim's bodies did not see any guns or bombs nearby the bodies to indicate they were armed civilians. Ablon furthered the lumads' culture was violated following the Army's order to autopsy the bodies of the victims.
"Wala man gud sa ilang kultura gani na mag-embalsamar so murag na-violate gyud ilang pamaagi sa ilang community."
Ablon also calls to stop the unjust tightening of security in the area.
"Ang mga army gilimitahan nila ang oras sa pagsaka sa atong mga lumad, sa uma, didto man unta sila matulog para dako ug agi, pero karon, hangtud udto naman hinuon sila taman lang," Ablon said.