Slain students in Batangas clashes were on ‘immersion’ program, says AFP
A University of the Philippines (UP) student and other youngsters who were among the 15 suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members killed at Nasugbu town in Batangas province on Tuesday were on an “immersion” program, according to a top military official.
Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said the program, or “tour of duty” (TOD), was meant to prepare fresh recruits for the rigors of living dangerous lives.
“TOD, normally in groups, aims to strengthen the belief of the would-be recruit that he or she is joining a just group and that they have noble purposes,” Parayno said in a phone interview.
“Our theory is they were [supposed] to conduct an offensive. They were ‘dressed to kill,’” he said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
He said a TOD member from UP “means she or he is being groomed to be a leader or cadre of the group.”
UP and PUP
Among those killed in what the military said were gun battles between government forces and the NPA was Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, a former biochemistry student at UP Manila.
Also killed was Kamil Manangan, a former Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) student and spokesperson for Gabriela Youth, the women’s group Gabriela said.
Authorities had yet to release the official list of those slain as of Thursday afternoon.
The military said Glen Mark Aytona, 22, of Balayan, Batangas, and Carl Espinosa Labajata, 32, of Lemery, also in Batangas, were among those killed.
Sources identified two other fatalities—Julieto Pellazar Jr. and a certain Dondon from Antipolo City, Rizal.
The lone survivor is Victoriano Almario, 47, whose home is just about 20 meters from the encounter site in the village of Aga.
Almario was taken to Medical Center Western Batangas in Balayan but was later moved to Batangas Regional Hospital in Batangas City. He is being guarded by policemen who denied the Inquirer’s request to talk to his relatives on the phone.
“He is an NPA,” Parayno said of Almario, who was under hospital arrest.
He said Almario drove the jeepney that ferried the rebels up to a police-military checkpoint in Aga.
Five people in the jeep died while nine others in a van were killed in the second clash in Barangay Kaylaway, about 2 kilometers away.
Chief Insp. Rogelio Pineda, Nasugbu police chief, said Almario would be charged with illegal possession of explosives and attempted murder.
Arnold Evangelista of the Batangas Integrated Human Rights Advocates said Almario, quoting relatives and neighbors, was “just a jeepney driver” hired by the group.
Just a driver?
Nasugbu Mayor Antonio Barcelon confirmed that Almario was a jeepney driver and that the vehicle was owned by a family from Barangay Banilad.
“[But] he would always be seen driving the jeep hired by protesters during rallies. If anything, he could be a ‘supporter,’” Barcelon said.
Families of those killed were still awaiting the release of the remains of their loved ones. As of Thursday afternoon, only Lapira’s remains had been released, according to Evangelista. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARRAH ERIKA RABE
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