Fausto massacre is latest in AFP’s kill list of Negros children, underground group says

An underground organization of revolutionary women has accused the Philippine government of being unconcerned over the rights and welfare of children in Negros, saying the killing of Ben Fausto (15) and his brother Raven (12) are just two of a long list of victims in the island.

The Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan – Negros (MAKIBAKA-Negros) said that aside from the massacre that killed the Fausto children in Himamaylan City last June 14, three other minors have been killed by the military since 2021.

MAKIBAKA-Negros identified Aldren Faburada (17 ), Everly Kee Jacolbe (16), and Christopher Montecino (17) as the other victims in the hands of government soldiers.

Focused military operations and the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) in the countryside have brought trepidation for people’s lives and security, particularly for children,” MAKIBAKA-Negros said in a statement dated June 19.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-allied organization said Faburada was severely beaten and killed by the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) last March 15, 2021. The child was earlier red-tagged as an NPA member when he was only fetching his school module from their hut near the encounter site at Sitio Kansampo, Brgy. Bagtik, La Libertad, Negros Oriental.

Like the Faustos, Jacolbe was massacred along with her pregnant mother and a relative by the 62nd IB at Sitio Banderahan, Brgy. Trinidad, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental last July 26, the group said.

Montecino was killed with his father Pedro when the 94th IB assaulted locals of Sitio Cunalom, Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City on September 11, 2021, MAKIBAKA-Negros alleged, adding the soldiers red-tagged Christopher in front of the media as an NPA “child warrior” who had surrendered.

‘Justice for the Faustos’

The AFP denied killing the Faustos, expectedly counter-accusing the New People’s Army (NPA) for the massacre instead.

PA’s 303rd IB commander B/Gen. Orlando Edralin said earlier they themselves condemn the Fausto massacre and vowed to “spare no effort to pursue justice for the victims and their families.”

“[W]e will closely coordinate with the Philippine National Police to fast-track the resolution of the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Edralin added.

Edralin claimed it was the NPA that killed the Faustos as it suspected the victims to have become spies for the military.

The general added that accusations the 94th IB brutally killed the family are “nothing but an attempt by the desperate NPA to tarnish the reputation of the Army in the province.”

“[They] quickly blame the Army without proof to mislead the people and to hide their guilty hands,” Edralin said.

An early incident report of the Fausto massacre of the human rights group September 21 Movement however pointed out that Emelda Fausto has reported harassments and attacks by the army unit prior to June 14.

Subsequent statements by church leaders and various organizations also said Roly Fausto had been repeatedly tortured and forced to serve as guide by the soldiers in an all-night military patrol days before they were killed.

‘Even babies are not spared’

MAKIBAKA-Negros said intense AFP operations have been indiscriminately showered bullets and bombs on peasant communities, ransacked houses, illegally arrested innocents, coerced civilians to surrender, and abducted and murdered civilians.

The group said these military strategy causes fear, anxiety, sorrow and anger in the minds and hearts of the people and their children.

“Trauma develops among children upon witnessing the lives of their father, mother, siblings and relatives taken away. In every destroyed home and each family victimized by state fascism, one to a thousand children are deprived of freedom to live as well,” the group said.

The NDFP in Negros monitored 17 cases of human rights violations by military troops on the island directly involving children, mainly by the 62nd IB and 94th IB, the group recalled.

“These were cases of extrajudicial killing, harassment and threat, indiscriminate firing and bombing, attempted abduction, forced surrender, and illegal detention,” MAKIBAKA-Negros said.

“Military troops occupying schools also cause intense fear as children and their teachers function as human shield for chicken-hearted soldiers. It disturbs the children’s education and places the community in danger,” the group added.

The women’s group also reported that 3rd Infantry Division troops also targeted and attacked babies and children they suspect are sons and daughters of NPA fighters, such as the 79th IB’s kidnapping of Baby Marx Cairo Salino, a two month old infant of guerillas taken from his caretaker on January 13, 2021.

The baby is reportedly currently with the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) of Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

“Despite the rights of Baby Marx’s family to claim and care for him, the fascist and merciless personages of the CSWD and military stubbornly insist that the freedom of Baby Marx depends on their decision,” MAKIBAKA-Negros said.

Last May 14, the 11th IB arrested a couple and their one-month old baby in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental over suspicions they were NPA members, the group said.

It added that 94th IB also chased after and attempted to abduct four children, aged one to two years old, in different barangays of Himamaylan City in 2022.

MAKIBAKA-Negros also expressed concern over reports that the 11th IB placed a P50,000 bounty on a two year old child of a Red fighter couple under the NPA’s Rachelle Mae Palang Command in Southeast Negros. The soldiers wish to use the child as hostage to coerce the parents to surrender, it added.

“This [3rd] Division of the Philippine Army is notorious for employing similar dirty tactics in warfare wherein children are used as bait to force the surrender and capture of their parents or relatives,” MAKIBAKA-Negros said.

The group said it welcomes the announcement of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to hold an investigation of the recent killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)