AMID the Makabayan bloc at the Lower House’s repeated denial of their links with the CPP/NPA/NDF and their refusal to condemn the New People’s Army’s atrocities in the countryside, a daughter of Bayan Muna party-list Representative Eufemia Cullamat was killed in a gunbattle with Army soldiers in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last Saturday.
Cullamat herself confirmed the killing of her 22-year old daughter Jevilyn but said she understood why her daughter joined the armed revolutionary movement. Both belong to the Manobo tribe.
The Philippine Army said Jevilyn was killed in an encounter with Army Special Forces in Barangay San Isidro, Marihatag where she was known to have served as an NPA medic.
Officials said that the identity of the young Cullamat was confirmed by former NPA rebels who have surrendered to the government.
Army 4th Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Allan Hambala said they recovered three AK-47 rifles, an M14 automatic rifle, and one M653 5.56 caliber rifle, as well as five backpacks containing war materials and subversive documents at the scene of the clash.
Hambala condoled with the family of Cullamat and urged indigenous people to condemn the NPA’s “exploitation of IPs (indigeous peoples).
“While there are issues concerning the IPs, violent, armed, and terrorist struggle will never be the right solution to it,” he said.
Cullamat defended her slain daughter’s decision to join the NPA movement.
“Di ako nagtataka kung sumapi sa NPA ang aking anak dahil sa patuloy na nararanasan naming mga katutubo sa mga pagmamalupit at pang-aabuso ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) at ng kanilang mga paramilitary groups. Naranasan mismo ito ng aming pamilya,” Cullamat said in a statement.
The lawmaker said her daughter was already of legal age when she decided to join the NPA. “Naniniwala ako na makatwiran ang kaniyang ipinaglalaban pero ibang porma ang kanyang pinili para mapigilan ang pambubusabos sa aming mga lumad at katutubo at para magkaroon din ng makatarungang lipunan,” she added.
The death of the young Cullamat occurred days after several former and current party-list representatives on Tuesday last week categorically denied that they are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA but refused to condemn the atrocities committed by communist rebels in different parts of the country.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares rejected government allegations that they were sitting as legal fronts of the communist movement.
Bayan spokesperson, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño even said that communist insurgents should not be considered as state “enemies.”
“We may not agree with their program, we may not agree with the way they are pushing their agenda but ang attitude namin sa kanila ay we engage because we recognize that their struggles are rooted in legitimate issues and grievances of our people,” Casiño said when Sen. Panfilo ‘Ping’ M. Lacson asked if they were ready to condemn the insurgents.
Lacson said he could not reconcile why some lawmakers who were elected into office and now part of the government could not stand with state forces in condemning NPA’s atrocities.
“If I was not part of the government, then I’m free not to denounce them, but I’m in that government,” he said, referring to the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc members.
Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy chimed in, saying it was alarming that some government officials refuse to denounce the communist rebels’ illegal acts.
“Seryoso po ito na ang mga kongresista mismo ay ayaw nilang kondenahin ang dapat kondenahin,” said Badoy as Casiño maintained that those who are engaged in rebellion should not be judged as Enemies of the State if their struggle is rooted in valid social issues.
LORENZANA ORDERS REVIEW OF PROTOCOL IN HANDLING BODIES OF SLAIN NPA MEN
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana yesterday ordered a review of the Armed Forces’ protocol in handling bodies of rebels killed in gunbattles with soldiers amid claims by the Makabayan bloc that the body of Jevilyn was desecrated by soldiers.
The leftist lawmakers accused the AFP of using the remains of Jevilyn as a ‘trophy’ for propaganda purpose.
Following the encounter, the military shared a photograph of soldiers posing with Jevilyn’s body alongside firearms and communist flags found after the clash. The photo was taken down later.
“What the military was doing was normal,” Lorenzana said. He added that it has been a longtime practice to show bodies of Abu Sayyaf bandits and other lawless elements slain in firefights in the countryside in the past.
“Maybe we should study how to protect the dignity and privacy of families. These people did not just pop up, but they have families,” he said.
Lorenzana said he has asked the AFP leadership to look into how they can treat slain rebels better.
However, AFP spokesman, Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo denied the claims made by the Makabayan bloc regarding the ‘war trophy’ issue.
“We vehemently deny that,” he said while explaining that soldiers posing for a photo beside Jevilyn’s body was “not meant to scoff at the dead or demean the remains whose identity is not known to the soldiers.”
Arevalo said it was “not an AFP policy to pass a photo like that.” “A similar act constitutes a violation of our stringent policy,” he said.
According to the official, the incident is now being investigated and the military personnel who shared the controversial picture with the public would likely face sanctions.
According to Arevalo, SF troopers had to carry the body of Jevilyn for ‘half a day’ in order to bring her to a much safer place since she was left behind by her comrades as they made a hasty retreat to save themselves.