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SOS: New Bataan Massacre victims waylaid on Wednesday night, not Thursday as military claims

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network revealed more details in the death of two volunteer teachers, a community health worker and their two drivers last week in what human rights groups call the New Bataan Massacre.

SOS said volunteer teachers Chad Booc and Gelejurain Ngujo II, volunteer health worker Elgyn Balonga and their two still unidentified drivers were victims of another massacre of Lumad and their defenders by the military.

The group reported the victims were on their way back to Davao City after a community visit and research work when waylaid by the military.

SOS said the last time anyone has heard from the victims was about 9:30 in the evening of Wednesday, February 23 when Balonga requested her family to come fetch them once they are back in Davao City.

In a public announcement last Friday, the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said that the five were New People’s Army rebels that engaged them in a 15-minute firefight Thursday, February 24.

The Philippine News Agency report on the military’s announcement did not mention a time of incident.

The SOS however said residents told them that no firefight happened last Thursday, an information confirmed by the Communist Party of the Philippines that said the NPA unit in the area denied such occurrence.

“We strongly assert that the victims were community volunteers and civilians from varying backgrounds, and their murder must merit the strongest condemnation,” SOS said.

Who were they?

Booc’s life as an activist and volunteer teacher in a Lumad school was well-documented in media articles and interviews.

READ: UP cum laude answers call to teach Lumad students

His prominence earned for him red-tagging attacks by government officials and institutions who alleged he was an indoctrinator and recruiter of young Lumad to join the NPA.

He was from a middle class background and a University of the Philippines cum laude graduate with a degree in computer science.

“He turned down a career and life of comfort and became a volunteer teacher. In 2016, he volunteered to be a teacher for ALCADEV in Surigao del Sur,” SOS said.

WATCH: Altermidya interview of Chad Booc

The Bakwit School is the roving program for Lumad students fleeing from the militarization of their communities and the forcible closure of their schools. It had been held in Davao City, Cebu City and Metro Manila and hosted by education institutions, churches and the Commission on Human Rights.

In 2021, Booc was one of the petitioners against the government’s controversial Anti-Terror Law before the Supreme Court.

Like Booc, Nguho was a college graduate who had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education majoring in English from the Liceo de Davao – Briz Campus in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

“He came from a humble family of farmers and was known for being patient and soft-spoken,” SOS said of the second victim.

Immediately after graduating, Nguho became a teacher at the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM).

After a year, he decided to become a volunteer teacher for the Bakwit School in Manila in 2018, and then in Cebu in 2019 and 2020.

“Like Chad, he was also a recipient of threats and intimidation from state forces for his work as a volunteer Lumad school teacher,” SOS said.

Balonga meanwhile was a community health worker who served at the Lumad sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines compound in Davao City from 2013 to 2018.

Balonga facilitated internships by medical students at the sanctuary, SOS.

“Elgyn was active in numerous medical missions in remote areas such as Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte. She lived a life of service for the Lumad, farmers, and workers,” the group added.

“Throughout their years of service, Chad, Jurain, and Elgyn had been subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, including death threats, red-tagging and terror-tagging, and surveillance. It is then even more deplorable that the people who take up the initiative to serve in far-flung communities, where the Duterte government cares little to address the needs of its residents, are targeted and killed,” SOS said.

Widespread condemnation

Human rights and activists groups held a condemnation rally at the Commission on Human Rights’ Jose W. Diokno Park in Quezon City last Saturday to condemn the killing of the victims.

SOS Cebu’s indignation rally on the killing of volunteer teachers, a health worker and their two drivers. (SOS Network Cebu photo)

The Cebu chapter of the SOS Network led a similar condemnation rally in the city on Sunday, February 27.

SOS Cebu spokesperson Meg Lim said the New Bataan 5 Massacre was not the first spate of killings of the Lumad and their advocates.

“Through the years, there had been the Lianga Massacre, the Pangantukan Massacre, the brutal killings of Obello Bay-ao and now, the deaths of 5 unarmed civilians, volunteer teachers and valuable members of the Lumad community,” Lim said.

“The AFP is so (bent) to silence the Lumad that it has repeatedly used the same old narrative of an ‘encounter’ to legitimize its brutal killing of innocent civilians in the mere act of service to their communities,” Lim added.

The Cebu rally was attended by Booc’s family, the group reported.

Nikki, Chad’s younger sister, demanded justice for her brother and the other victims’ deaths through a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation of the incident.

The SOS revealed the families have yet to retrieve the victims’ remains, anticipating possible harassment and intimidation from the military.

“We are calling on all IP rights advocates, friends of the victims, the media, and every Filipino to join us and the families of the victims’ as we ensure that they are brought home,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

MGA DAGDAG NA TULA PARA KAY CHAD BOOC

4. ODE TO AN ABRIDGED LIFE

(On confronting the fate of Chad Booc)

by Pablo Tariman

Grief is infinitely real

When people die young

In the prime of their lives.

You can see

That it was a well-spent youth

Nurtured by concern for the common man

Along with a zest for life

He found anomalous

In a sea of deception.

But then young men with energy

Die young

Like Mozart gone at 35

And who once said:

‘I am one of those who will go on doing

Till all doings are at an end.’

I am 73

I sometimes

I imagine how it is

Dying in your 20s, 30s,40s, 50s

And living An abridged life.

Would I have been spared

The torments of my senior years?

Would I have been better off

Not living the pandemic

With a life

Cut short by accident, sudden illness

Or a nightmare?

Moreover

Old age gives you

What the young don’t get to see

In their lifetime.

You witness the birth

And death of the best

People in the arts

And the cinematic turn

Of their lives.

When you live a bit longer

You see the rise and fall of fortunes

Sad chapters of marriages

And the eternal sadness

That happily brought out

The best in them.

You have seen

The best and worst of leaders.

You have lived the best and worst of times.

You have witnessed how dictators fall.

And will likely witness the fall of another one.

You see the birth of legendary beauties

And their beautiful

As well as sad lives.

You have lived endless sunshine

And stormy weather.

Would you have been better off

Not living in cyberage

Doing away with tablets

And laptops

And complicated passwords

In the new era

Of zoom press conferences?

When activists die young

I connect easily

Even if I didn’t share

A good slice

Of their abridged life.

Was that death meant

To spare them

From more uncanny chapters

Of living a life?

I suppose

You learn the precariousness of living

And its inevitable ending

Living extended years.

A young life just ended

And here I am contemplating

A longer life denied to many.

I like how life

Gives you unpredictable chapters

And new twists in a life

Not knowing how it will end.

I don’t like to mourn

When people die young.

Death could be the peace of mind

They have been looking for

And the perfect ending

For a life of struggle

Back in their restless minds.

When they die young

You appreciate that you lived

A bit longer.

With death and suffering come

The legacy of wisdom

Almost always denied

To the young

And apportioned to those

Who reach the autumn

And winter of their lives.

At 73

I like the peace

That comes with

The prospects of dying.

But when you die young

You pause

And think of the possibilities

Of more fruitful life ahead of them.

Can you grieve when

You see young people

Die a swift and early death?

I can imagine

What was in his mind

As he breathed his last.

When bullets

Tore through

His young body

He did not die in vain.

He died for a cause

Nobody in these trying times

Would care to espouse.

Could those fatal bullets

Be stark reminders

That a pure kind of heroism

Look deep and noble

On the young?

Then and now

You learn to appreciate

The long and short

Of a borrowed life.

I can accept it

That the young die

With the purest brand

Of heroism.

5. HIGIT PA SA SIBILISASYON

Ni Richard R. Gappi

Minsang may nagwika:

may nawawasak na sibilisasyon

tuwing may nasusunog

na bahay-aklatan.

Paano kung buong

eskuwelahan ang tinutupok

ng lagim at takot?

Paano kung pinapaslang

ang mga guro?

Paano kung buong tribo

ang sinisilaban upang

mabura sa mapa ng lupa

na kakambal ng kanilang hininga?

Higit pa sa sibilisasyon.

Maliban sa pagbangon,

usok mula sa guho na

naghuhugis taas-kamao.

Nagwiwika:

“Nu sa pipa makaugod,

manugod kan dida tu.”* #

*Katumbas ng “If the land could speak, it would speak for us.”

— 8:26AM, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015

Angono Tres-Siete (3/7) Poetry Society

Angono, Rizal, Pilipinas

6. TATLONG TANAGA

Ni Ron Magbuhos Papag

Para sa nakalimot

O katwirang baluktot

At sa yama’y nag-imbot

Ika’y sayang at salot

Ang tangan mo ay sulo

Mapagpalayang turo

Para sa katutubo

Buong lupang ninuno.

Sarili’y inialay

Dunong, husay at buhay

Sa layuning dalisay

Pagkakapantay-pantay.

7. TEACH US, CHAD

By Luchie Maranan

I read of you,

Of how you deconstructed teaching

Within four walls,

And learned the language

And lore of the Lumad.

Of how your lesson plans

Were designed in sync with

The nurture of the beloved

Fields and ranges of the natives

Who taught you that it is just

To cherish and defend

The roots and springs of

The indigenous identity and survival.

I read of you, Chad.

Of how fierce your spirit can be

That it cannot be crushed

By these doomed, dark forces

Always hungry to quell the hapless.

Teach us, inspire us, Chad,

To crush this heartless, beastly

Enemy called the State.

= = = = = = = =

READ: Tatlong tula para kay Chad Booc

Tatlong tula para kay Chad Booc

1. Si Chad at mga Bakwit

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Hininga ang naghihiwalay sa katawang lupa.

Kaluluwa ang nag-uugnay sa diwa at kataga.

Gunita sa himaymay na siyang bulong sa panata.

Tuwing may dugo at luha na dadampi sa madla.

Matamang nangungusap ito sa kamalayan.

Nagsasabing ang buhay ay daluyan lamang.

Kasangkapan ng karunungan at pagmamahal.

Sukdang pumikit ang mata at ito’y mabuwal.

Sino bang tunay na magbibigay ng paghanga.

Di ba’t yaong mga Lumad na pinaglingkuran nila.

Patotoong mababakas sa hinagpis at palahaw,

Kundi pisnging binasa ng dusa at pusong naulila.

Tulad nila ay kislap ng batis sa silong ng buwan.

Bulalakaw sa hinaing at pangarap ng nanibugho.

Ilog na tumatalunton sa malawak na karagatan.

Puno na nagbibigay ng pananalig at kanlungan.

Balabal-ritwal at kasuutan ng mga katutubo.

Awit, sayaw, huni at galaw ng mga ninuno,

Dayuhang narahuyo sa diwatang sinusuyo.

Tadhanang naghatid ng pag-ibig at pagsuyo.

Hindi ka namin ililibing kagaya ng ‘yong hiling,

Kasama ng apat pa, binhi kang sa lupa ikakalat.

Sa lupang pangako kawangis mo’y didiligin

Ng sumibol at yumabong adhikain na hangad.

— Pebrero 26, 2022

2. Hindi lumuluha ang demonyo

(Hinggil sa ‘No tears for terrorists’ ni Dr. Lorraine T. Badoy)

Ni Marlou Abaja

Walang balon ng awa

Walang batis ng malasakit at hinagpis

Walang bukal ng buhay ang katawan

Ng demonyong nagbabalatkayong tao

Walang aagos na luha ng dalamhati

Walang luha ang demonyo

Tinuyo ng apoy ang bawat patak

Bagkus ay pagdiwang sa itim niyang budhi ang nangingibabaw

Sa pagpanaw ng pinaslang na bayani

Walang luha ang demonyo

Kundi galak na hindi makatao.

3. Titser Chad

Ni Raymund B. Villanueva

Pauwi pa lamang mula sa rali–

nag-kober at sumali–

nang malaman ang masamang balita

mula sa lalawigan ng ginto’t dugo

Ayaw munang maniwala

Bakit ba? Napakasama

nakakapanghina

Ngunit possible, bakit hindi?

Madalas talagang maging martir

ang mga dati nang bayani

Adya yata, sa UP ako dumaan pag-uwi

(Bilin ng asawa’y bumili ng lupa sa maghahalaman

sa C5.) Pagliko kanina sa University Avenue

lumingon sa kanan at tinanaw hanggang dulo

ang istatwang dipa’t tingala.

Sa ngayong naluluhang mata

dahil sa iyo, Titser Chad,

si Oble’y tumangkad pa yata.

–3:01 n.h.

25 Pebrero 2022

Lungsod Quezon

‘Chad Booc and 4 others were massacred’ – Save Our Schools Network

It was a massacre that killed a celebrated volunteer teacher and four others in Davao de Oro last Thursday, an indigenous peoples’ organization said.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said the February 24 incident that resulted in the death of University of the Philippines (UP) cum laude graduate Chad Booc, fellow volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II and three others was “in fact a massacre of civilians.”

In confirming the death of one of its two volunteer teachers, the SOS said Barangay Andap, New Bataan residents confirmed to them that no clash happened between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) at the reported time of the incident.

“And in its attempt to justify these gruesome killings, the armed forces once again twist the truth to play into their narrative as they have done many times before,” SOS said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) echoed the group’s report, saying the AFP’s “encounter” claim is an outright lie.

“There was no encounter in New Bataan, Davao de Oro, yesterday (Thursday), where the AFP claims it killed activist Chad Booc and four others. This was confirmed to us by the local NPA unit in the area,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena tweeted.

“Indeed, the AFP’s ‘killed in an encounter’ story line has repeatedly been used in the past to cover up the cold-blooded murder of civilians or unarmed people. We urge their family and friends to uncover the facts surrounding their deaths and demand justice for their murders,” Valbuena added.

The 1001st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) claimed it engaged alleged NPA rebels in a 15-minute gunfight that resulted in the death of Booc, Nguho, an alias Daday and two unidentified others.

PA 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Captain Mark Anthony S. Tito further claimed government soldiers recovered one M653 rifle, one caliber .45 pistol, one hand grenade, one anti-personnel mine, assorted food supplies, and personal belongings from the victims.

The AFP also publicly released photos of the victims laying bloodied and dead on the ground, a move condemned by the SOS.

“To add insult to injury, the 1001st Infantry Brigade of the AFP has paraded the bodies of the deceased as war trophies. Even to the extent of planting guns and ammunition on the bodies to make it out as if they were combatants who shot at the AFP,” the group said.

“Photos of the deceased are supposed to be taken for the sole purpose of documentation, not as trophies released and paraded without the consent of the families… a testament to the AFP’s disrespect and non-adherence to the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” SOS added, referring to the document signed by the Manila government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in 1998.

Booc last figured in the news in 2021 when he was arrested in Cebu City after being accused by the military of kidnapping Lumad children and indoctrinating them to take up arms against the Philippine government.

‘Teacher Chad’ forging one of his countless rivers and streams on the way to a Lumad community. (Photo from Chad’s FB account)

Booc however is celebrated in various articles as well as in campaigns for his release as a selfless people’s scholar who chose to dedicate his life to the service of indigenous peoples’ communities.

A cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines with a degree in computer science, Booc worked full time as a volunteer teacher for Lumad schools in Mindanao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Anong klase ang gobyernong Durterteng ito’

“Anong klase ang gobyernong Duterteng ito? May krisis sa kalusugan, may krisis sa ekonomiya, may krisis sa distance learning. Pero walang ginagawa ang gobyernong ito kundi ang Cha-Cha, ang terror-tagging, ang panunupil at panghuhuli [sa] katulad nila Teacher Chad, 25 na Lumad, at iba pang bilanggong politikal.”Vladimir Quetua, Alliance of Concerned Teachers