Child-focused groups urge CHR to probe Grecil case

KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns, an alliance of 51 child-based, child-focused groups, and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)  want the CHR “to bring justice to the victim because we cannot let this to happen again to our poor and disadvantaged children and their families.”

“We will also call the attention of other local and international rights-based groups and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), through Dr. Nicholas K. Alipui, UNICEF Country Representative, to respond on this concern,” KABIBA and CRC said in a press statement dated April 7.

Also on April 7, the Luzon-based spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a press statement condemning the military for the killing of Grecil.

Grecil, eldest child of Virginia Buya and Gregorio Galacio was known as “Grecil S. Buya” even in school.  The name is based on her birth certificate. Her parents have not married.

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Southeastern Mindanao has yet to issue a statement.

Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza, chief of the 1001st Infantry Brigade told MindaNews Tuesday that the results of the investigation would be out “within two days” but as of press time Saturday, Holganza has yet to send a copy of the report.

Initial military reports described Grecil as a “child soldier” of the New People’s Army.

CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal,  said Grecil was “deliberately shot by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 67th IB while she was cowering away from the military’s volley of fire. The soldiers had initiated an attack against NPA fighters they spotted near the Galacio family’s residence in Barangay Kahayag, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.”

Galacio, Grecil’s father, said a group of five NPA guerrillas had arrived at their house early Saturday morning to ask permission to use their kitchen for cooking and to bathe in the creek.

He said he agreed because he felt he had no choice because the group was armed.

Galacio said Grecil, who had just finished Grade 2 at the SimSimen Elementary School, told him morning of March 31 that he was going to take a bath in the creek. He said the girl ran towards the creek, a few meters down, from across their house, carrying a green plastic which he presumed contained soap.

Minutes later, he said, he heard gunfire. On the third volley of fire, Gregorio said he, his wife and two younger daughters, fled. By then, Grecil still had not shown up. Gary, the second child, was also in the creek, bathing. Virginia said she didn’t want to leave without the two elder children but they were advised by the armed men, referring to the NPA, to leave.

Holganza told MindaNews last Tuesday that reports reaching him indicate there were 38 NPA guerrillas in the area and that they had been in the area for four days. Galacio told MindaNews it was the first time he saw the NPA after years of absence in the area.

Holganza also said Galacio is a suspected NPA as soldiers allegedly seized two hidden firearms and “subversive documents” from his house.

In their joint statement, Honey May Idul-Suazo, executive secretary of Kabiba and Girley Layaguin, regional program director of CRC, said there are “compelling findings and evidences” that the elements of 67th and 8th Infantry Battalion whom they accused of killing the girl,  “could be held accountable for violating domestic and international instrumentalities on children’s rights.”

The statement said they sent a Quick Response Team on April 4 to conduct an investigation and that the team’s findings “negated the claim of Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command under Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniana that Grecil Galacio was an “NPA child-soldier.”

The Philippine Star on April 2 quoted Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniana as saying the soldiers were forced to fire at the child because she was also firing at them using an M-16 rifle. “She was firing at them and the soldiers had no recourse but to fire back, thinking she was an adult male combatant because she was good at using the M-16,” Obaniana was quoted as saying.

Idul-Suazo also said the team found that Grecil was “summarily executed” because “the “presence of gun powder burns on the right side of the back of Grecil’s head indicates that she was shot at close range.”

The joint statement said the killing of Grecil was a “concrete violation” of Article 38, Section 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that “the State shall also ensure the protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflict”; Geneva Protocols 1 and 2 “mandating parties of conflict to distinguish civilians and combatants”; and Article 10, Section 22a of the Republic Act 7610 which declares that “the children shall not be the object of attack, shall be entitled to special respect and must be protected against any form of indecent assault”.

“Further, the AFP’s irresponsible practice of using Grecil for war propaganda purposes by misrepresenting her as an ‘NPA child soldier’ is also a violation of children’s rights that the public must condemn,” the statement read.

“It is awful how the military officials could insist that the child victim was an NPA when the findings have concretely negated their statements,” she added. “Is this the way of the AFP to save their face amidst local and international condemnation of extra-judicial killings?” she asked.  

Compostela Valley Governor Jose Caballero told MindaNews Wednesday he had yet to get details of the killing of Grecil.

MindaNews had asked Caballero, one of a few human rights lawyers in the then undivided Davao del Norte (from where Compostela Valley was carved out), if he would order a probe. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)