A week before the start of the new school year, a mother and daughter who just bought school supplies were ambushed by suspected elements of the Philippine Army (PA), killing her and injuring the child.
Gunmen, suspected to be members of the PA’s 25th Infantry Battallion operating in Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley provinces, gunned down Beverly Geronimo, 27, who sustained seven wounds, killing her instantly in Barangay Salvacion, Trento, Agusan del Sur at about noontime Sunday, May 26.
Her eight-year old daughter, an incoming Grade 3 student of the Lumad school Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI), was wounded on her arm.
Geronimo was an active member of the Tabing Guangan Farmers Association (TAGUAFA) and the Parents-Teachers’ Community Association of the MISFI.
The victims as well as two other relatives were on board a motorcycle and on their way home from the town center after buying school supplies for the incoming school year next week.
Two gunmen in civilian clothes stopped them and fired at them, an urgent alert from the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said.
Since 2009, Geronimo had been harassed, intimidated and coerced by Philippine Army soldiers for her opposition to large scale mining activities by OZ Metals and Agusan Petroleum, SOS said.
MISFI is a network of Lumad Schools suffering attacks from the military that accused them of being symphatetic to the New People’s Army.
Barug Katungod, an alliance of human rights workers in Mindanao, said that as of February 2018, five Lumad have been victims of extra-judicial killings in Mindanao, two coming from Agusan Del Sur.
A total of nine battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are deployed in the Northeastern Mindanao Region.
Due to intense military operations and aerial strikes, about 3,247 individuals have been forced to evacuate, Barug Katungod added.
In Manila, Amihan or the National Federation of Peasant Women, condemned the brutal killing.
Quoting Karapatan data, Amihan said that of the 125 farmer victims of extrajudicial killings under the Rodrigo Duterte government, Geronimo became the 21st peasant women victim.
Five children, five elderly and five farmer couples were included in the list, Amihan added.
The PA has yet to issue a statement about the ambush.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)