The military claimed the nine-year old Grecil, eldest daughter of Virginia Buya and Gregorio Galacio, was a child soldier.
Caballero, who is completing his third and last term on June 30 this year and is running for the province’s lone congressional seat, told MindaNews Wednesday night that he has been busy campaigning and does not have the details of what happened yet.
MindaNews had asked the governor, one of a few human rights lawyers in the then undivided Davao del Norte during the Marcos dictatorship (ComVal was carved out of Davao del Norte), if he was ordering a probe on the killing of Grecil. Caballero told MindaNews Wednesday night he would call the chief of police to be apprised about what happened.
MindaNews also phoned the Commission on Human Rights regional office in Davao City to inquire if the office was dispatching a team to New Bataan but the officials were unavailable.
Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza, chief of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, told MindaNews Tuesday (April 3) in New Bataan, that he had ordered an investigation into the killing of Grecil and that results would be out within the next two days.
Initial military reports said Grecil was carrying and firing an M-16 rifle.
The Philippine Star 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.
Holganza acknowledged that initial reports about Grecil as “child soldier” were made because the girl was reported carrying a firearm and that even before the firefight, she was already seen carrying a firearm.
Holganza said they are also investigating Galacio, Grecil’s father, who is in the list of suspected NPAs because soldiers reported having seized two firearms and “subversive documents” from his house. Galacio denied being part of the NPA and said he knew nothing about the firearms and “subversive documents.”
Galacio narrated that a group of five NPA members arrived at their house Saturday morning to ask permission to borrow pots and utensils so they could cook lunch and to take a bath in the creek across, a few meters down.
Galacio, a tuba gatherer, said the last time he saw his daughter was when she passed by her, running towards the creek, bringing with her a green plastic which Gregorio said, likely contained soap as she had sought permission to take a bath.
Minutes later, the first burst of gunfire was heard, Galacio said.
Galacio said he gathered his two younger daughters, Valerie and Angeli and with Virginia fled after the third volley of fire. Virginia kept asking about Inday and Dodong, referring to Grecil and Gary, who were both in the creek. Galacio said he would return for them.
It was shortly before 9 a.m.
Virginia would learn about her daughter’s death in the early afternoon.
The military lost one soldier – Pfc Ruben Bracera who was wounded and evacuated to New Bataan. Bracera expired on board the ambulance on the way to the hospital in Tagum City due to loss of blood, Holganza said. Bracera was supposed to marry his three-year partner on April 28.
Kelly Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said the military’s claim about Grecil being a child soldier is “a shameless accusation designed to destroy the identity of the victim and justify the death of the girl.”
In a press statement, Delgado said “it is clear that the claim of the military has no factual and truthful basis. The truth is that (Grecil) is not a child combatant. The only factual and truthful thing in this case is that the military is making stories again, planting evidences again to justify evil accomplishments—and this time the victim is (Grecil).”
Delgado urged the CHR to “urgently conduct investigation and give concrete actions to the killing of Gracel… justice must be served.”
Grecil was hit on the right elbow. But the fatal blow was when a bullet hit the left side of her head and blew her brains off.
A military photograph of the fallen Grecil, face down, bloodied head, beside an M-16 rifle that she reportedly earlier carried, showed the rifle’s height to be about the same as the girl’s. A fully-loaded M-16 weighs several kilos and is heavy for an adult to lift.
Grecil, who wanted to be a doctor or a nurse, would have turned 10 years old by October 13. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)