Army welcomes probe on Kabankalan clash

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) said that it is open to any investigation on the clash that killed six alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental last week.

The Army said that they welcome any inquiry to this effect by any independent party, as the result of the investigation will eventually clear them from various allegations of human rights violations.

Based on the report of the Army, killed in the clash were alleged members of Samahang Yunit Propaganda, Southwest Front (SWF)-Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS) led by Alejo Delos Reyes, alias “Peter/Bravo,” squad leader of Squad 2 of SYP Platoon 3, his wife Melissa Dela Pena, alias “Diane,” Bobby Pedro, alias “Recoy,” vice squad leader of Squad 3 in the same platoon, Mario Fajardo Mullon, alias “Reco/Goring,” medic of Squad 1 from the same platoon, Janice Flores, a medic, and Ruben Gaitan.

Military troopers of the 47th Infantry Battalion (IB) responded to a report on the alleged presence of armed persons at Purok Lubi, Barangay Tabugon when the clash broke out on September 21.

The Army said that in the conduct of combat operations, the soldiers are reminded to always observe and abide by the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Rule of Law.

“We are confident, and we firmly believe that the said encounter was a legitimate one,” the 3ID said in a statement.

The Army said that those who died in the said encounter were alleged top Cadres of the NPA. They earlier tagged the group as responsible for several atrocities in Southern Negros, particularly in CHICKS (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan, and Sipalay) area.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the province said recently that it will conduct an independent probe pertaining to the said encounter.

The CHR said that the investigation will be conducted next week since one of the fatalities was later found to be five months pregnant based on her post-mortem examination, and the wife of Gaitan, claimed that he was not a member of the NPA.

Major General Marion Sison, 3ID commander, said the greater public should be more discerning about the NPA’s narratives, as they considered it as mere propaganda designed to discredit the security forces and to ignite the ire of the people against the government.

“We should not simply accept and believe their messaging hook, line and sinker,” Sison said in a statement, as he appealed to the public to exercise discretion towards this end.

He assured that the 3ID shall remain true and committed to its mission to uphold freedom, protect human rights, and secure the people in their area of responsibility.

For his part, Kabankalan Mayor Benjie Miranda, in a statement, said that “people need peace now more than ever in the city and the province to face common problems and challenges.”

Each of us has a role in spreading peace, hope and unity in our society. Let us maximize this for the progress of our city and country, he added.