5 killed in Bukidnon clash; Army says it's a massacre

A FAMILY in Bukidnon believed to be leaders of the paramilitary group Maggahat-Alamara was killed in an encounter with the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Indalasa, Malaybalay City on June 5, the Maoist rebel group said in a statement.

NPA in South Central Bukidnon Subregional Command said in a statement sent to media via email on June 8.

The military, however, denied an encounter took place but a "massacre."

The NPA South Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command in a statement sent to media via email on Wednesday, June 8, said, the encounter lasted for five minutes killing brothers Ricky "Mankolobi" Bocalas and Jojo "Manlumakad" Bocalas, Jojo's wife Inay Tsek-ap Bocalas, including their seven-year-old-son.

A .45 pistol and a KG-9 submachine gun was recovered by the NPA.

Ka Ariel 'Inda' Magbanwag said the Maoist rebels clashed with the counter-revolutionary group at Tagikan river in Barangay Indalasa.

First Lieutenant Edwin Bugarin, 8th Infantry Battalion spokesperson, however, said no clash ever happened in Barangay Indalasa as what the NPA claimed.

He confirmed there was a clash in Sitio Bagol, San Luis town in Agusan del Sur adding that the number of casualties remains unclear at press time as the military still verifies the incident.

The NPA spokesperson said the communities in the areas had long complained and asked the rebels to avenge them from the said paramilitary group for their alleged crimes including the murder of lumad Arman Ampildon of the Umayamnon tribe in February 2014 and on the attempt of the life of a Manobo fold in Cabanglasan town.

The NPA also accused the group for strafing a Talaandig couple who was tilling their ricefield in Barangay Binicalan, San Luis in Agusan del Sur.

The Maggahat-Alamara group also allegedly killed some Talaandig residents in Barangay St. Peter in Malaybalay City in 2015.

The statement also accused the Maggahat-Alamara for killing Mariano Mankombete and his two grandchildren in 2015 and the alleged murder of a Talaandig tribal leader Datu Lalinan Mansolbadan in Barangay Binicalan in San Luis, Agusan del Sur in April 2016.

Magbanwag claimed the Maggahat group was founded last February 2013 by the 8IB and the 403rd Brigade to intensify “Oplan Bayanihan.”

After the Maggahat's leader Mantuyadog Bocalas was killed in 2015, Magbanwag said the group joined forces with Emboy Diwangan of the Alamara paramilitary and Delamance group.

"Gipanghimaraut mismo sa ilang katribo ang ilang pagtampo sa reaksyonaryong kasundalohan tungod kay mahari-harian ug malupigan na nila ang mga tribung Umayamnon ug Talaandig-Banwaon nga nanimuyo sa bukirong bahin sa Cabanglasan ug Malaybalay City sa Bukidnon padulong sa utlanan sa San Luis, Agusan del Sur," Magbanwag said in a statement.

The alleged crimes committed by the said paramilitary group caused evacuations and interruptions of the lumads' lives from Sitios Balaodo and Kinuaw in St. Peter, Malaybalay City, Sitios Tigbao and Insibay of Barangay Binicala, San Luis town in Agusan del Sur, and from Sitios Tagbakan and Ponggokon in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, Magbanwag said.

Magbanwag said the NPA deplores the death of the mother and child adding they will send assistance to the family.

Not clash, but massacre

Bugarin said the incident wasn’t an encounter or clash 'since the victims did not fight back.'

"Hindi pa po klaro kung ilan ang namatay, pero may mga bata daw po na casualties.Ang klaro lang po is ang nangyari ay hindi clash more of a massacre yun kasi walang exchange of fire," he said.

He said a child who survived the incident reported the alleged ‘massacre’ to Malaybalay police.

"Pinublicize pa nila na namatay daw ang bata pero hindi naman. Para sa amin taliwas yan sa kanilang mga pinagsasabi na for human rights daw sila. Yung bata ay nasa custody ng PNP at hindi pa ma-interview kasi inaalala namin din yung state of mind niya," he said.

Those who were killed were not members of paramilitary group, but civilians who were also internally displaced in a conflict last year in Agusan and received assistance from the military, Bugarin clarified.

Also, Bugarin said that the firearms recovered by the NPA in the area might have been planted.

"Siyempre yung mga taong patay na, defenseless na kung anumang gawin sa kanila, so maari na baka nilagay lang doon yung mga na-recover nila," he added.
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