Army challenges CHR to condemn civilian killings

NO TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Soldiers of the Philippine Army's 11th Infantry Battalion based in Siaton, Negros Oriental, stand in attention during a formation in this undated photo. The Philippine Army said on Tuesday (April 30, 2024) that it would not withdraw its forces from the province despite its declaration as under a state of Stable Internal Peace and Security.
NO TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Soldiers of the Philippine Army's 11th Infantry Battalion based in Siaton, Negros Oriental, stand in attention during a formation in this undated photo. The Philippine Army said on Tuesday (April 30, 2024) that it would not withdraw its forces from the province despite its declaration as under a state of Stable Internal Peace and Security. (PNA file photo by Mary Judaline Partlow)

The commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army challenged the Commission on Human Rights in Negros Occidental to strongly condemn the recent spate of killings of civilians in the province by the New People's Army (NPA).

Brigadier General Orlando Edralin on Wednesday said they should "condemn and look at these violent killings of innocent civilians at a bigger perspective."

Edralin said that he and the 3rd Infantry Division were communicating with the CHR regional office and Chris Montaño, the regional director for Western Visayas, and he was reportedly told that they are "not agencies that conduct investigation into these cases but they can only provide support for the victims."

Earlier, Vincent Parra, CHR-Negros Occidental officer-in-charge, said they will conduct a moto propio investigation into the killing of eight civilians within one month by alleged members of the NPA over suspicion that they are military spies.

Eight civilians in the province were killed from April to early May this year over allegations by the rebels that they spies or "military agents."

The victims were identified as the following:

-Danny Boy Bartolome of Sitio Paho, Camandag, La Castellana town on April 11

-Barangay tanod Alexander Alquizar of Proper Lagaan, Calatrava town on April 20

-Myrna Bilando of Sitio Duga-anon, Barangay Oringao, Kabankalan City on April 21

-Jun Habagat of Sitio Cagay, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City on April 24

-Albert Golez of Sitio Cuyawyaw, Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla town on April 24

-Ritoy Pedro of Sitio Kamanggahan, Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan on April 28

-Barangay tanod Donie Baculi of Sitio Bactolon, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City on  May 3

The NPA, however, denied any hand in the killing of the fourth victim, Barangay Councilor Reynaldo "Jimmy" Jacolbe, in Barangay Puso, La Castellana town on May 1

Ka JB Regalado, the spokesman of the rebel's Leonardo Panaligan Command-Central Negros Guerrilla Front, accused them of spying for the Army's 62nd and 94th Infantry battalions based in Isabela and Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental, respectively.

"They cooperated with the Army to the detriment of the members of our 'pulang hangaway' (red warriors), so we carried out our revolutionary justice against them," Regalado said.

“We have a Constitutional mandate is to investigate even non-stake actors that commit human rights violations,” Parra said.

Edralin said that statements from the rebels "are all general statements used in their propaganda."

"Admittedly we cannot protect the families of these victims," he said, adding that with the support of the community we will engage them."

"These senseless and murderous killings just form part of their propaganda to establish their presence," he said.*

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