He Says, She Says
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police say they have neutralized on January 30 at least 18 members of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya of the New Peoples Army in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac.
Only 10 bodies were brought down to a church from the forested area where the encounter occurred. Several bodies were badly disfigured and burnt and were left in the area.
AFP Northern Luzon Command Spokesperson Col. Preme Monta says they had to bomb the hideout of the suspected rebels since it is highly forested. He adds they have credible information that the group was planning to attack the police stations of Sta. Ignacia and Mayantoc towns. Civilian residents in the area where the suspected rebels are camping out are the ones who reported to the authorities.
But human rights advocate Emil Paragas of Karapatan Central Luzon branded the operation as an“overkill” saying the bodies were almost beyond recognition even by their families.
Paragas also says it was a misencounter because among the dead are civilians. Apparently the suspected communist troop was embedded in a civilian village.
Based on the story of Jaime Salgado whom I met at a funeral parlor, his brother Dante and cousin Allan Ibasa are not rebels. Jaime says Dante and Allan were invited by the military for questioning while cutting bamboo trees. A day later, Jaime found out that Dante and Allan are among those neutralized by the authorities.
But minutes after talking with Jaime, a man who refused to identify himself approached me said the suspected rebels are indeed NPA members. He said he clearly remembers the faces of the dead and these are the ones who killed his neighbor last November 15 while they were onboard a running vehicle.
Other residents of Sta. Ignacia also quietly confirmed that most of the dead are communists. They are afraid to be interviewed oncam though.
Again, this is a case of a “he says, she says” story. But for whatever its worth, 18 people are dead. And insurgency and counter-insurgency will always be there for as long as the communists and the government refuse to meet half-way.