Davao City – The Youth for Peace Movement (YFPM) – New Bataan condemned on Sunday the conflicting statement of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network claiming that the recent death of members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), including an alleged indigenous peoples (IP) recruiter, in New Bataan, Davao de Oro was a massacre.
On February 24, five NPA members – Chad Booc, Jojarain Alce Nguho ll (alias Rain), a certain alias Daday, and two still unidentified men – were killed in a clash with government forces in Purok-8, Barangay Andap, New Bataan.
Booc was one of those arrested at the University of San Carlos (USC)-Talamban Cebu City in February last year for alleged trafficking of IP members in Talaingod, Davao del Norte but was released upon order of a local court in May of the same year.
The SOS Network claimed the victims were community volunteers and civilians from varying backgrounds, and their murder must merit the strongest condemnation.
The YFPM-New Bataan, however, has debunked the SOS claim.
“The YFPM – New Bataan strongly condemns all armed groups that continually use children and people in their armed activities, thus the spread of wrong accusations on what happened,” YFPM said in a Facebook post.
The group said the Lumad schools have become breeding grounds for communist rebels — a claim that has long been testified by the former rebels.
“It has been confirmed by the authorities and testified by the locals of Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro that there is indeed resistance and encounter between these communist rebels and the 1001st Infantry Brigade troops. (And) coming from the mouths of the locals, It is not a massacre,” the group added.
The SOS Network claimed that the families of the victims learned of the massacre only on February 25, when the 10th Infantry Division posted a press release on its official Facebook page, parading the murders of the five unarmed civilians and claiming they were “killed in an encounter” a day before.
“Ironic to the freedom of speech that their Facebook pages are said to be practicing, some of the New Bataan locals rebuking the page’s narrative were blocked and were disabled in the comment sections,” the YFPM statement read.
It also added that “the residents have strongly stood that education in Barangay Andap is well sustained. We call on every armed element to spare the children from armed conflicts. Instead, let us encourage them to get the right education because only then do we achieve genuine peace and development.”
The group also cited that: “It is an insult to the people of the said municipality to be pitied no grounds by those who have not to live in it.”
“We need to be aware and vigilant against any manipulative actions from Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) rebels who appeals to pity most times. We also ask our partners in peace to ensure that our children will no longer be involved in groups and their activities,” it added.
Meanwhile, Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy vouched for the military’s claim that the NPA members were killed in an encounter.
“What Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III was saying is all true. It was reported by the people from the ground that there were NPA sightings in the area,” he said in a press briefing Saturday at the 1001st Infantry Brigade Headquarters in Maco, Davao de Oro.
Uy said military and police responded to the area due to the reported presence of NPAs.
“Our people of Davao de Oro deserve peace and order, and I firmly believe that if we can sustain our efforts, it will result in a better future for our youth,” he said.
Recruiter’s death: A sigh of relief
Rurelyn Bay-ao, a former student of Booc said his death has brought a sigh of relief to the IP children who were once deceived by false ideology.
“We, who were victimized and were recruited, we are happy because nobody will lure the IPs [again] and even resort to kidnapping to join their [Salugpungan] schools,” she said in the same press briefing.
Bay-ao also denied the claims of the SOS Network that ‘it was a massacre’, saying the NPA members were armed and the government troops only retaliated.
She recounted that as a former student of Booc, she was with him in – Cebu, Manila, during Lakbayan, Bakwit schools, and other areas.
“He [Booc] urged me to continue and when we went home to Talaingod, Davao del Norte he sent me a message that their situation is already in danger [due to intensified focus military operations],” Bay-ao added.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (Che Palicte)
(Source: Philippine News Agency)