Malaybalay to exhume bodies of slain rebels

Four representatives and relatives of the slain rebels, all women, met with Malaybalay City Mayor Florencio T. Flores Jr. and other city officials at the office of the mayor Tuesday afternoon to arrange for the exhumation and possible transportation of identified bodies to their homes. 

Dr. Dennis Sangalang, city health officer, told MindaNews the relatives requested the exhumation so they could give their slain kin decent burial.

The exhumation was agreed to be done on Black Saturday, April 11.

Eleven suspected rebels were killed when the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked a patrol base of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Zamboanguita village here past noon on March 31. 

Four members of the city-funded CAFGU forces and three civilians were killed in the attack. 

A day after the attack, no one claimed the bodies of the suspected rebels, prompting the local government to order the mass burial as the bodies were starting to decompose.

The bodies were not placed in coffins when buried. 

Col. Cresente Maligmat, of the 23rd Infantry Battalion, said it was the local government that took charge of the burial but Flores said it was the military that suggested the mass burial because of the foul odor.

Sangalang said they approved the exhumation and the possible transportation of a body positively identified by a sister who was among those who met with city officials.

He said the bodies would still be interred in the same cemetery, but they will be buried separately and placed in coffins. Flores said the city government will provide coffins for the burial. 

Flores told MindaNews the relatives and representatives claimed they saw on television that the bodies were “basta nalang gipang-itsa” (dumped unceremoniously). 

He denied the claim, saying television crew arrived in the scene only after the burial. But he said, though, somebody might have taken images and gave it to a television station. 

Some of those killed were from Agusan del Norte, and the cities of Butuan and Iligan, according to the relatives who talked with city officials, Flores said. 

The government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the National Democratic Front in 1998. The pact, among others, discussed the treatment of the dead.

Among others, the agreement prohibits the “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict or while under detention, and breach of duty to tender immediately such remains to their families or to give them decent burial”.

The CARHRIHL is the first comprehensive agreement in the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP, according to the website.

Formal negotiations between the national government and the CPP-NDF-NPA were canceled by the latter in August 2004. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has since set a 2010 target for the military to end the 40-year-old-rebellion. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)