By INA ALLCO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — In the midst of their extreme grief, families of slain members of the New People’s Army and residents of Brgy. Camflora in San Andres, Quezon in Southern Tagalog are demanding that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) respect their rights to give their slain loved ones a proper wake and burial.
According to reports, platoons of soldiers have stationed themselves in the very community where the wake is being held for three NPA members killed in an armed encounter against the AFP last June 30. For the last quarter, six battalions of troops have been deployed in various provinces in Southern Tagalog, specifically in the areas covered by the Bondoc Peninsula.
Earlier last week, the Save the Bondoc Peninsula held a week-long fact-finding and mercy mission in the province to expose military atrocities. The clash between the AFP and the NPA took place as the human rights groups were going around the communities documenting the experiences of the residents in relation to the intense military operations in the region.
Now, families of the killed NPA guerrillas, as well as sympathizers and friends, feel greatly harassed by the presence of the soldiers who are also said to be questioning those who attended the wake.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Glendhyl Malabanan, secretary-general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalong said the military’s presence in the wake is a serious violation not only of Filipino traditions concerning respect for the dead, but also against International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
Malabanan said there are IHL provisions stating that soldiers should not be in areas where there is a concentration of civilians. She said the AFP recklessly and willfully violates IHL with the mere presence of soldiers in civilian communities in Quezon and the rest of Southern Tagalog.
“This is not an issue that should concern them now. This is a wake; people are giving respect to the dead, to their killed relatives. The AFP’s presence here is unacceptable,” she said.
“It is clear that the AFP is using these tactics to discourage people from supporting the NPA, but the truth is, because of the countless abuses soldiers continue to wreak against civilians,the military institution itself is pushing people to join the NPA and fight injustice.”
Malabanan said reports indicate that the bodies of the killed NPA members was stripped naked and taken around in a gross parody of a parade around one of the villages in San Narciso. The bodies were, Malabanan said, already decomposing when the families were finally able to see them.
“The supposed clash took place early morning of June 30, but the bodies of slain NPA guerrillas were brought to a funeral parlor only on July 1, at almost midnight. The entire time, the bodies were left under the sun and rain. After that, they were stripped and supposedly paraded around the village. This was to frighten the residents and drive home the point that they should not support the NPA. What they did is also a violation of IHL, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and IHL (CARHRIHL),” she said.
Article 3(4) of Part IV of the CARHRIHL provides that “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict or while under detention” shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to persons hors de combat. Article 4(9) provides: “Every possible measure shall be taken, without delay, … to prevent mutilation [of the dead].”
Arman Albarillo, revolutionary martyr
In the meantime, the multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (BAYAN-ST) is planning to organize a tribute to one of the slain NPA guerrillas Armando “Arman” Albarillo.
Albarillo was the former secretary-general of Bayan-ST. He was the son of Expdito and Manuela Albarillo, both members of Bayan Muna who were killed on April 8, 2002 in San Teodoro, Mindoro Oriental by soldiers under the command of Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan of the Philippine Army.
Palparan is now a fugitive in hiding from the law for the abduction of students of University of the Philippines (UP) Sherly Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
In the aftermath of his parents’ brutal murders, Albarillo rallied to keep what remained of his family together, including seven younger siblings. They were forced to become internal refugees because of persistent death threats from Palparan. He became active in the massively popular campaign demanding the ouster of then president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was a frequent speaker in rallies and demonstrations not only in Southern Tagalog, but also in the National Capital Region, demanding justice for the victims of political extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations of the military.
In 2008, it was discovered that he was in the so-called Order of Battle of the military and the police. He was approached by agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and offered safety and money if he would join the military establishment. He firmly refused.
In a video, he said “Gawin na lang nila ang gusto nilang gawin sa akin tulad ng kanilang ginawa sa aking mga magulang. Hinding-hindi ako titigil sa paghahanap ng hustisya para sa aking pamilya at buong sambayanan.” (They can do whatever they want, including what they did to my parents. I will never stop searching and calling for justice for my family and the rest of the Filipino people.”)
Because he persisted in his human rights activism and involvement in campaigns to expose the atrocities of the military in the Southern Tagalog region, the AFP filed charges against him for allegedly joining an ambush operation against soldiers in March 2006 in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Along with 71 other innocent civilians, on October 2008 Albarillo was charged with multiple frustrated murder and multiple murder in Mindoro Oriental courts.
It was then, Albarillo’s colleagues in Bayan-ST said, that Albarillo decided to join the NPA. They said he made the decision so that he could continue fighting for justice: something that he was being denied because of the security precautions he was forced to take in the wake of the military’s continued threats against his life.
XL Fuentes, incumbent secretary-general of Bayan-ST, said Albarillo wanted nothing than to continue his work in Karapatan and join the mass campaigns demanding higher wages, genuine agrarian reform, and social services for poor.
“But the AFP filed serious but fabricated charges against him. It’s not surprising that he decided to take up arms. He said he had accepted that justice is an almost impossible thing to attain given how corrupt Philippine society currently is, being run by imperialism and its puppet governments,” Fuentes said. “He joined the NPA because he saw the NPA as defenders of the poor.”
As former secretary-general of Bayan-ST, Albarillo would be given a tribute on July 4, 2012 in Quezon City by the human rights organizations and people’s groups under Bayan National.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said Bayan gives its highest tribute to Arbarillo as a “revolutionary martyr.”
“He was a revolutionary, comrade and friend. We are honored to have known him and worked with him as the secretary general of Bayan-ST. He was a victim of state terror under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime with his parents killed by Palparan’s henchmen. It pains us to know that his fight for justice remains unfinished. We admire his courage, steadfastness, sacrifice and determination in the face of adversity. His memory will live on in the hearts of the people he served,” he said in a text message sent to Bulatlat.com.