“We saw how they brutalized the bodies of my parents. I saw the body of my mother, her stomach was slashed open, her intestines ripped out. My father’s head, meanwhile, was shattered but he bore no wounds on his face.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Leslie Olvinar’s tears flowed like a river.
A daughter of slain New People’s Army (NPA) fighters, Leslie, 20, said in a press conference, July 20, “We do not deny [they were NPA] but they too have rights as humans.”
Leslie’s parents, Eduardo and Rosario, were among the 11 NPA guerrillas killed in a military operation at sitio Sinagtala, barangay White Cliff, San Narciso, Quezon on June 30.
“We saw how they brutalized the bodies of my parents. I saw the body of my mother, her stomach was slashed open, her intestines ripped out. My father’s head, meanwhile, was shattered but he bore no wounds on his face. The embalmer said he could have been shot through his mouth,” Leslie said, crying.
“There are violations of international humanitarian law,” Cristina Guevarra, secretary general of Hustisya and a member of the fact-finding team organized by the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, said. Guevarra said that based on their investigation, the military “used excessive force against the guerrillas and that the remains were desecrated.”
The fact-finding team went to the site of the incident. The hut where the NPA fighters were staying is isolated; the nearest house is about three kilometers away. Photographs taken by the team showed that the hut was riddled with bullets. Guevarra said they stopped counting the holes in the walls because there were “too many.”
Guevarra, pointing to a photograph showing a big hole in the roof of the hut, said the soldiers could have used a grenade launcher against a handful of NPA fighters. The firefight between the NPA and elements of the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on June 30 lasted for three hours.
When Leslie and the other relatives heard of the news, they immediately went to San Narciso and she, like the others, was shocked at what she saw.
“Because of the work of our parents, we have long accepted that they would die because of the war but we could not accept how they turned out after death. The soldiers desecrated their remains. Residents said it took 24 hours before the bodies were recovered. The bodies were put on a cart pulled by carabaos. The soldiers would have easily done the work. They had the capacity to kill, how could they not carry the bodies?” Leslie said.
Guevarra said the soldiers ordered the village officials to recover the bodies. It took almost the whole day to take the bodies from the site to the center of the village. The bodies were exposed to the public.
“If you would see the bodies of my father and my mother, we could barely recognize them. Their faces were covered because my father’s tongue was sticking out, his skull shattered, his eyes popped out. Have they given any tinge of respect to the dead?” she said.
Leslie is fourth of the seven children of Eduardo and Rosario. The youngest is ten years old.
Leslie said her parents were “compelled to take up arms.” Her parents used to be active members of Kongreso ng Magbubukid para sa Repormang Agraryo, an organization of local farmers in South Quezon.
“Our parents were subjected to harassment; soldiers would go to our house almost on a daily basis. They accused our parents of being members of the NPA but in truth, my parents were mere members of Kopra, an organization of farmers. Almost every morning, the soldiers would come to the house, they would threaten my parents that they would be arrested and detained because they were allegedly NPA members,” Leslie recalled.
In 2008, her parents were charged with attempted murder. In 2009, the couple decided to go to the hills.
Adelisa Albarillo shared Leslie’s sentiments. Adelisa, sister of Arman Albarillo shed tears as she recalled her painful past.
“That is how brutal the soldiers are, murdering people. They killed my parents as though they were pigs.
My father’s left eye was removed. My mother’s neck was shattered,” she said.
Adelisa witnessed how her parents Manuela and Expedito Albarillo were forcibly taken away by soldiers from their house in San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro on April 8, 2002 . She found the bodies of her parents after the killing.
“That is also how brutal they killed my brother. His hand cut off, his body riddled with bullets. Is that the proper way to kill? Even if they are New People’s Army [fighters] Is it right to desecrate their bodies?” Adelisa asked.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in 1998 also explicitly forbids the desecration of remains.
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 [the dead].”
Relatives of slain NPA fighters are considering filing a complaint before the Joint Monitoring Committee, a committee formed by both parties tasked to oversee the implementation of CARHRIHL.
Hustisya’s Guevarra said that after the firefight, soldiers continue to “sow terror among the civilian populace.”
She said the military imposed curfew, conducted census and ordered all the residents to obtain cedula or community tax certificates. “These are elements of hamletting,” she said. Hamletting is a method of controlling the population to supposedly remove the support rebel groups receive. Communities are forced to move to areas surrounded by military encampments; their movements are restricted; the ingress and egress of food supplies are being limited; and curfew is imposed. A census of the population is conducted and anyone who is not in the list or any family member who is not in his or her house is automatically branded an enemy and therefore, a target of attack. The practice of hamletting was developed during the American Indian Wars and was extensively used by US troops during the Vietnam War. It was first applied in the Philippines by American troops during the Filipino-American War. It was later on used in counterinsurgency operations of Philippine governments, especially during the low-intensity conflict implemented by former president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.
For his part, Orly Marcellana, spokesman of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, lambasted the heavy military operations in the towns of Bondoc Peninsula.
“Aquino will deliver his Sona (State of the Nation Address) this Monday. In the rural areas of Bondoc Peninsula, sona means militarization and human rights violations. To the rural folk, Sona or zoning means machine gun-toting soldiers roaming the villages, terrorizing civilians,” Marcellana said.