CHR probes killing of 6 rebels in Negros Occidental
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has stepped in to investigate the killing of six suspected communist rebels in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Sept. 21.
Vincent Parra, CHR-Negros Occidental head, said they decided to conduct a probe, especially since a pregnant woman, an alleged innocent civilian, and a tricycle driver, were among the six fatalities.
A statement last week by the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the New People’s Army Southwest Negros Guerrilla Front (ASJC-NPA) claimed the incident in Kabankalan was not an encounter but an alleged “massacre” perpetrated by soldiers from the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion, who killed their medical personnel, a rebel couple on medical leave, and a tricycle driver.
Ka Andrea Guerrero, ASJC-NPA spokesperson, said those killed were “noncombatants” who were on board a hired tricycle traveling along Sitio Lubi when fired upon by soldiers.
Guerrero identified the six victims as Ka Rekoy (Bobby Pedro), Ka Goring (Mario Mullon) and Ka Joyce (Janice Flores), who were medical personnel of the NPA; Ka Bravo (Alejo delos Reyes) and wife Ka Diane (Melissa dela Peña), who were on leave because Dela Peña was six months pregnant; and tricycle driver Robin Gaitan.
Lt. Col. J-Jay Javines, chief of the Army’s 3rd Division Public Affairs Office, said they welcomed the CHR investigation as they could prove there was a shootout between the government troops and the communist rebels.
He maintained the six fatalities were NPA members and the claim that it was a massacre was just a “standard NPA propaganda ploy.”
“We are open and we will fully cooperate with any investigation by any party. The result will eventually vindicate us from various allegations of violations. We are confident that the encounter was a legitimate encounter,” he said.
Based on the report of their soldiers, Javines said it was the group on board the tricycle who first opened fire at the government troops.
He claimed that before the incident in Barangay Tabugon, there was a prior incident involving suspected rebels riding in motorcycles who attempted to ambush soldiers, also in the same village.
Javines said the soldiers were in the area on Sept. 21 to respond to an alert from residents that armed rebels were extorting and collecting food from them.
Kabankalan Mayor Benjie Miranda said the six fatalities were not from Barangay Tabugon as relayed by the village chief.
According to the military, the slain persons belonged to the group allegedly responsible for killing Army soldiers in Cauayan in April 2021 and in Sipalay in November 2022.