Police dismiss torture claim in deaths of five Philippine rebels in Bohol

This image of Hannah Cesista, one of the five suspected New People’s Army rebels killed in Bilar, Bohol, on Feb 23, is posted on the Facebook page of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Cebu chapter, calling for justice over her death. — NUPL-CEBU FACEBOOK Read more: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1910437/police-dismiss-torture-claim-in-deaths-of-5-npa-rebels-in-bohol#ixzz8SuHbg1nO Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

MANILA: Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said on Monday they were open to an investigation into an encounter in Bilar town in Bohol province last week amid questions on the circumstances surrounding the death of five suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The Central Visayas chapter of the rights group Karapatan has earlier called for an investigation on the operation, which it described as a “massacre,” claiming the slain rebels did not die in an encounter with government troops but were allegedly captured, tortured and killed.

The fatalities were identified as Domingo Compoc, known as “Kumander Cobra” and “Silong,” and said to be the secretary of the NPA unit operating in Bohol; lawyer Hannah Cesista, who passed the bar only in 2022; and Parlito Historia, Marlon Omosura and Alberto Sancho.

The bodies of Compoc and Omosura were claimed by their son and mother, respectively, a day after they were killed; while those of Cesista, Historia and Sancho, whose remains were initially brought to Holy Name Funeral Homes in Tagbilaran City, had been received by their respective families, as of Monday (Feb 26).

At a press briefing, Acorda maintained that the encounter was a legitimate operation.

He said policemen and soldiers raided a house in Bilar’s Barangay Campagao on Feb 23 to serve a warrant to Compoc but they were met with gunfire.

Compoc had several standing arrest warrants for his alleged involvement in a series of killings in the province and had a bounty of P2.6 million on his head.

“If there are complaints, we are open for investigation but based on the report, it’s a legitimate operation. In fact, it’s an intelligence driven operation and an implementation of a warrant of arrest... So far, with the report of the police regional office, there is no irregularity,” Acorda said.

He added: “In fact, it was very unfortunate that one of our police personnel died and one wounded. Maybe that seems too much to sacrifice one life and wounding another just to draw an encounter.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command chief Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo called the allegations as mere “propaganda.”

“We will not dignify their propaganda anymore, they can say what they want,” he told reporters.

“They are not saying anything new. They say that to all the things that’s happening. We’re not hearing anything new from what they are saying. They’ve been saying that in all the operations.”

Karapatan said they have received reports from the residents of the village that the five fatalities “were all accosted alive” by soldiers and police and did not die from an encounter.

“We call for an independent investigation of this gruesome incident given the propensity of state security units to summarily execute suspects under the guise of its worn-out ‘nanlaban’ (fighting back) narrative,” Karapatan said in its Facebook page.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, in a Feb 24 statement signed by its information officer, Marco Valbuena, claimed that the five had already been captured, before they were tortured and killed.

Citing accounts of villagers, he said the five were allegedly made to crawl in mud in front of the villagers before they were killed. Compoc, he added, was already in his 60s and was in no position to fight since he was suffering from arthritis.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Cebu chapter, in a separate statement on Sunday, also said it received reports that the five were ordered to vacate the house where they were staying and were forced to strip off their shirts before they were allegedly ordered to roll in the mud.

“The witnesses narrated that they were pleading with state forces to stop their inhumane acts but to no avail,” it added.

According to NUPL, Cesista earned her political science degree from the University of the Philippines-Cebu before taking up law at the University of San Carlos, both in Cebu City.

“NUPL Cebu members can attest to Hannah’s unwavering dedication and active involvement in the chapter’s activities in providing legal services to marginalized communities.

She was always the first person to volunteer when lawyers needed assistance in the countless legal work of the organization. She joined community visits for paralegal trainings and discussions on human rights despite the demands of law school. Hannah also passed the 2022 Philippine Bar Examinations,” it said. — Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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Philippines , rebels , death , NPA , Bohol


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