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.
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)