Lorenzana orders review of protocol in handling slain rebels’ remains
MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday (Nov. 30) said he had ordered a review of protocol in handling bodies of rebels slain in battle following an uproar from leftist legislators over what they said was the desecration of the corpse of one of their colleagues’ daughter who was killed in a clash.
The Makabayan bloc of members of the House of Representatives, composed of leaders of left-wing party-list groups, had accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of using the remains of Jevilyn Cullamat as a “trophy” for propaganda purpose.
Jevilyn, 22, is the daughter of Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat. She was killed in a clash between the military and New People’s Army (NPA) in Surigao del Sur province over the weekend. Soldiers said Jevilyn was serving as an NPA medic.
The military later 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 told reporters, speaking in Filipino.
He said it’s been a practice to show bodies of Abu Sayyaf, MNLF and MILF members slain in clashes in the past.
“Maybe we should study how to protect the dignity and privacy of families,” Lorenzana said. “These people did not just pop up, but they have families,” he added.
“I have directed the AFP to look into how we can treat this, those who are killed in encounters, better,” Lorenzana said.
But the AFP denied it used the remains of Jevilyn as a war trophy.
“We vehemently deny that,” said Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, in a statement. He said 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.
The controversy, he added, is already being investigated. The military personnel who shared the controversial picture with the public would face sanctions.
Soldiers had to carry Jevilyn’s body for “half a day of hike” from the site of the clash, where she was left behind by rebels, to be able to ascertain her identity, according to Arevalo.
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