Churches, groups demand impartial investigation on the death of celebrated poet and peasant organizer
The National Democratic Front in Negros (NDF-Negros) said peace talks consultant and celebrated poet Ericson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez have been stabbed and hacked, further belying military claims the two were casualties in a running gun battle in Kabankalan City last November 30.
NDF-Negros spokesperson Bayani Obrero said soldiers of the 94th and 47th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army first strafed the house were Acosta and Jimenez have taken shelter to rest before dawn yesterday.
They were then “taken forcefully and then ‘salvaged’ (summarily killed),” Obrero added.
Quoting the Jimenez family, Obrero said Acosta and Jimenez “have indications that they were stabbed and hacked.”
In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan said initial reports by its local chapter in Negros indicate that Acosta and Jimenez were captured alive as of 2 a.m. of November 30, 2022 in Sitio Makilo, Barangay Camansi but were tagged hours later by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as casualties in a “fake encounter.”
“Residents also said that the bodies of the two bore stab wounds. Acosta was also said to be recuperating from illness in the said community,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
NDF-Negros said the deaths of Acosta and Jimenez “raised the number of fake encounters in Negros under the [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr regime to 14.”
The group added that Jimenez was the 7th farmer killed in the island by state forces since July 2022.
“All peasant killings were notably declared by state forces as ‘encounters’,” Obrero said.
The house where the two victims were taken belongs to a Ronald Francisco, who was also taken by the soldiers to the 47th IB headquarters, along with his wife and three children, NDF-Negros said.
Francisco’s family could not contact them while the local police station dismissed their requests for a blotter report, it added.
In its announcement last Wednesday, the 94th IB claimed Acosta and Jimenez were part of a 10-man New People’s Army (NPA) team that engaged government soldiers in two separate fire fights in two sites that are 100 meters apart.
The military added that the “encounters” happened within 15 minutes of each other.
Church and civil society leaders however called for an impartial and independent investigation of the incident in light of reports that the victims were captured alive before declared dead by the military hours later.
“In light of this information, as well as the numerous cases in the past of such fabricated stories to cover up acts of summary execution, Pilgrims for Peace calls for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by both the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), so that an impartial investigation may be conducted,” they said.
“We also call on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to undertake the same. If found that the reports of the extrajudicial killing of Acosta and his companion by the military are true, the AFP must be taken to task for this abomination, which is part and parcel of a militaristic, ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach to the long running armed conflict with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA,” the group added.
The group’s statement was signed by Iglesia Filipina Independiente Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza and representatives of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response, Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.
They were joined by the groups ACT for Peace, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, Gabriela, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Farmers’ group Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) also condemned the deaths of Acosta and Jimenez as well as the abduction of the Francisco family, saying the military may have violated the International Humanitarian Law.
“Maituturing na krimeng pandigma o ‘war crime’ ang pananakit sa mga sibilyan at pagsalakay sa kanilang tahanan, at maski mga armadong rebelde ay maling maltratuhin bilang ‘prisoners of war’ sakaling madakip,” UMA said.
(Hurting civilians and attacking their home is considered a war crime, even maltreating armed rebels when they have already been captured.)
In its separate statement, Karapatan also called on the government to surface the Francisco family. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)