Massacre in Bicol, killing of a minor in Davao del Sur among the military’s latest atrocities – Karapatan

“Amid several national issues gripping the news, the Duterte regime has continued its atrocities in the countryside, again conveniently sweeping violations in their false grand narrative of ‘they are all NPAs.’ Last week, the military killed a minor and even tagged the victim as an NPA child soldier. Though humiliated by the parent’s outright rebuttal of their lies, this nonetheless reflects the government’s ongoing terrorist acts in peasant and indigenous communities, coupled by their distortion of the truth to cover their crimes,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the death of 15-year-old Jhun Mark Acto in what the military alleged was an encounter in Brgy. Astorga, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur on April 21, 2018.

The victim’s mother belied the military’s claim. According to reports gathered by Karapatan Southern Mindanao, the victim was a student of Ricardo L. Ipong National High School in Old Bulatukan, Makilala, North Cotabato. He was temporarily with relatives in Astorga, Sta. Cruz for summer vacation to help his parents earn money by harvesting copras.

Jhun Mark was with his two cousins when they heard loud explosions and waves of gunshots directed towards their location. They were separated after the three who scampered away for cover. His relatives received word that a lifeless body of a child was found near a tree in Sitio Bayungon; Jhun Mark’s relatives positively identified him the next day.

“This was a deliberate cover-up. The military took pains to dress the victim with a black shirt bearing the NPA logo, and even placed a backpack, firearms and explosives beside him, to complete their story that he was a child soldier. To add insult to injury, elements of the 39th IBPA and 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion even tried to bribe the child’s mother, to make her go along with their lies; Jhun Mark’s mother courageously refused their shameful acts. This is a classic military move to escape accountability for the killing of a minor,” added Palabay.

Karapatan also cited an alleged encounter between the 83rd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army and the NPA in Payak, Bato, Camarines Sur on April 10, 2018 where the military claimed 3 NPAs were killed and 5 were arrested, including a minor. The residents, however, refuted these claims that the victims are combatants, adding that victims Orlando San Jose Jr., 47, Ana Nias San Jose, 25, and Noli Colico, 26, are civilians. Orlando and his daughter, Ana, were killed when soldiers strafed their house. The military, at one point, even refused to tender the remains of the San Joses to their families.

Palabay noted that “to escape accountability, the military rivals Duterte trolls in spreading fake news. This is done without regard for the victims and their families, without regard for human rights and international humanitarian law. The Duterte regime is building its expertise in killing the Filipino people and brushing its crimes through excuses, selling the country and keeping mum about sovereignty, dismissing critics while invoking sovereignty, and demonizing human rights to forward the agenda of its tyrannical regime.”

“Our farmers and indigenous peoples are being killed and targeted by this undesirable government. No wonder people like Sr. Patricia Fox and many other human rights advocates join their struggle for justice. The killings continue, the lies and the fake news continue. Meanwhile, government is working hard to persecute all human rights defenders, individuals and organizations who condemn these injustices and amplify the call for accountability. This is the Duterte regime’s understanding of peace – when all those who dare speak out the truth are silenced,” concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580