‘Davao shooting not encounter but massacre’

THE Save Our Schools Network (SOSN) denied the claims of the military that what happened in Davao de Oro that resulted in the deaths of five individuals was an encounter.

The organizations under SOSN are seeking justice and called for a thorough investigation on what happened between government forces and the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) on early Thursday morning, Feb. 24, 2022.

In a press release from the 10th Infantry Division (10ID) of the Philippine Army, the fatalities were identified as Jojarain Alce Nguho II alias Rain, Chad Booc alias Chad, a certain alias Daday and two still unidentified men.

The 10ID said there was an encounter between government forces and the SMRC, believed to be led by Eric Jun Casilao alias Wally/Ellan, and Regional Operations Command, SMRC led by Leo Lacumbo alias Ole.

The Army said the communist group scampered and withdrew southwards after a 15-minute firefight leaving one M653 rifle, one caliber .45 pistol, one hand grenade, one anti-personnel mine, assorted food supplies and personal belongings.

Booc, who was among those killed in the encounter, was also one of those arrested by the Central Visayas police after being involved in bringing IP (indigenous peoples) children from Davao del Norte to Cebu on Feb. 15, 2021.

The SOSN said no encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army happened in the area as confirmed by locals in Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro.

“What the AFP claims as an ‘encounter’ is in fact a massacre of civilians in the area,” the SOSN said.

Save Our Schools Network is a network of child-focused nongovernment organizations, church-based groups and other stakeholders advocating for children’s right to education.

In its press statement, the SOSN said the AFP “must have been incredibly desperate to exact revenge for its failed narrative of painting out Chad Booc as a child trafficker nor the Lumad schools being breeding grounds of NPA rebels.”

Collectively identified as “Bakwit School 7,” Booc’s group allegedly kidnapped and brought the indigenous peoples (IP) children to the retreat house of the Societas Verbi Divini Philippines Southern Province, University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus in Cebu City.

“The trumped-up charges of human trafficking and kidnapping against Chad and the rest of the Bakwit School 7 had already been dismissed, proving the innocence of the accused and the falsity of the claims of the State against them. And yet, the State still continues to view Chad and the rest of the Bakwit School 7 as terrorists for merely working towards the goal of giving education to those who have been barred from attaining it,” the group said.

They alleged that Chad had received numerous death threats from government forces over the years for speaking out on the militarization in the Lumad’s ancestral lands and the closure of their schools.

The group said that like his students and the Lumad communities where he and Jojarain teach, Chad is hunted for exercising his democratic rights and for fighting for the rights of the Lumad.

“This is the kind of culture of impunity and fascism that the Duterte administration wants to leave as its legacy. Together with the victims’ families, the Save Our Schools Network demands justice and a thorough investigation for Chad, for Jojarain, and the other victims of the massacre, and enjoins fellow advocates to call to address the root causes of armed conflict and resume peace talks,” the press statement read.