Human rights advocates to file raps vs Army on Canlaon encounter

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Human rights advocates in Negros are mulling filing charges against the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) for the death of three individuals in an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Budlasan, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental last month.

In a statement, the group said that it will file multiple murder and robbery charges against Brigadier General Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde), and the operating troops of the 62nd IB, including its battalion commander.

This was based on the recommendation of the fact-finding team, which conducted an in-depth investigation on the death of Cristina Jacolbe, her daughter Everly Kee, Roldan Montero, and Cristina’s unborn child.

According to the group, they received complaints from the families of the three victims, thus the group launched a fact-finding mission on Aug. 27 to ascertain the truth about their death.

The Army has earlier reported that Cristina alias “Chave,” an alleged finance officer; her daughter Everly Kee alias “Kaye,” and Rodan Montero alias “DJ,” were alleged members of Central Negros 1 (CN1) of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor (KR-NCBS).

But based on the fact-finding team, the three victims were not NPA members. The group said that Cristina was a dedicated daycare teacher in Barangay Budlasan. She was pregnant at the time she was killed.

The group also said that Everly Kee was a Grade 11 student, who also dreamed of becoming a teacher like her mother, while Montero was a gaffer of different cockpits in the provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. He is a relative and neighbor of the Jacolbe family.

The group also stressed in their fact-finding mission that there was no encounter that happened. They cited the statements of two witnesses, claiming that when they responded to the area after hearing gunshots, they were prevented by three armed persons from proceeding to the house of Cristina.

The group also said that based on the medico-legal report, the three victims were riddled with bullets and died of gunshot wounds. They said that the trajectory of bullets were all directed toward the house as shown by the bullet holes found in the walls, and roofs. Empty shells were recovered in the place where the Army was positioned while no single empty shell was recovered inside the house.

The group also alleged that the military ransacked the house, and took P40,000 proceeds from the cow and pig that the family sold a day prior to the incident. They also allegedly took P3,000 savings, a chainsaw, and two cellular phones.

They also said that the victims were unarmed.

In response, Pasaporte said that it is their right to file charges, but they maintained that the encounter was a legitimate operation. “We stand on our ground that it was a legitimate encounter,” he said.

The clash happened while the military troopers were conducting patrol in the hinterland part of Barangay Macagahay, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, when a concerned civilian reported the alleged presence and extortion activities of the NPA rebels in the adjacent Barangay Budlasan, Canlaon City on July 26.

Pasaporte said they have evidence to support their claim that the victims were members of the NPA. In fact, even the barangay captain told the Army that he already knew that Cristina had joined the armed struggle eight years ago. “Open knowledge na sa ground. Nadalahig na lang ining bata niya,” he said.

Pasaporte said that there were previous killings committed by the NPA, but the group did not react to them.

Pasaporte said that the military did not rob the victims during the encounter. “Trump-up issue lang ni nila kag buhaton ang incident nga daw propaganda,” he added.