Two persons were allegedly killed by members of the military in separate incidents in Batangas in what human rights groups call "fake encounters" with the New People's Army (NPA).
A 9-year-old girl and a 50-year-old person with disability (PWD) were allegedly shot to death the 59th Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army (IBPA) that were supposedly "fake encounters" with the communist rebels, human rights groups say.
In a statement on Wednesday (July 27), Mothers and Children for the Protection of Human Rights (MCPHR) said that while the military claims that Ineng (not her real name) was shot in an armed encounter at around 1:10 pm on July 18, locals of Barangay Guinhawa in Taysan refute the claim, saying they heard gunshots that came from only one direction as early as 10 am.
Ineng was declared dead upon arrival at Taysan Rural Health Center.
In a Facebook post on July 20, the 59th IB claimed that the victim was hit by a “ligaw na bala (bullet from an unknown direction)” in an encounter with armed rebels.
“[To] seemingly escape liability, the 59th IB is continuously fabricating narratives by claiming that there was an encounter, and that the NPA killed Ineng. Towering evidence say otherwise,” MCPHR countered.
“The killing of Ineng is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and Protocol II of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that obliges the protection of civilians in armed conflict,” it added.
The victim’s family reported military presence in the area when Ineng’s body was brought to the wake. Human rights volunteers who visited to extend their condolences were also reportedly harassed and red-tagged by the military.
Meanwhile, in another town in Batangas, 50-year-old farmer Maximino Digno – who according to his relatives was mentally ill – was also allegedly killed by the 59th IB on Tuesday.
Digno was found dead following a report by the 59th IB that they managed to kill an NPA member in Cahil, Calaca, Batangas.
In a statement, the 59th IB said that they encountered at least five armed rebels while doing Focus Military Operation or Combat Patrol in the area at around 3 pm on July 26.
“After the encounter, one rebel was killed. Guns, improvised hand grenade, NPA flag, various bullets, and others were discovered in the incident area,” the IB posted in Filipino.
However, according to locals, Digno, also known as ‘Tatay Maximino’, was last seen going to his farmland at around 2 pm on Wednesday with only a pellet gun he always brings with him. According to peasant rights group KASAMA-TK, his remains are yet to be released to his family.
“Mula sa obserbasyon ng mga residente, si tatay Maximino ay may diperensiya sa pag-iisip; palaging nagsasalita kahit walang kausap at may dalang pellet gun kapag lumalabas ng kanilang tahanan,” the peasant group said.
(According to observation by residents, Tatay Maximino is mentally challenged; he always talks even when alone and always brings a pellet gun whenever he steps outside.)
The incident happened only a day after the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President and dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr., where no human rights issues were mentioned.
Human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog noted that the incidents, along with other violations in the province, “come at a backdrop of a string of development projects that would gravely affect the people of San Juan, Taysan, Lobo, Calaca, Calatagan, Rosario, and Nasugbu.”
The group said that coal-fired powerplants are being expanded in Calaca, while mining and quarrying efforts are being explored in other towns.
“The 59th IB is quickly becoming one of the gravest violators of International Humanitarian Law. Ironically blazoned as the “Protector” battalion, their protection is none to be found for the farmers, fishermen and townsfolk of Batangas,” Karapatan said.
Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.
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