NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/10 April ) — There were no placards or streamers crying for justice, no funeral procession, no wailing even, just a quiet goodbye and a prayer for justice, for nine-year old Grecil, eldest child of Virginia Buya and GregorioGalacio, a “good child,” the elders in the community all agreed, but whom the military claimed to be a
“child soldier” of the New People’s Army (NPA).
At least 150 relatives and friends joined Grecil’s family in offering the last prayers for Grecil at the Birhen sa Kasilak chapel in Barangay Kahayag, before proceeding to her burial site at the public cemetery some 6.7 kilometers from Purok 6, where Grecil lived and was killed.
“Dili man gani makakaya’g dala ug duha ka galong tubig si Inday, armalite pa kaha?” (Inday couldn’t even carry two gallons of water, how much more an armalite?” asked Elizabeth Galacio-Hernandez, paternal grandmother of Inday, as Grecil was fondly called.
“Sakit gyud kaayo ba,” (It’s very painful), Hernandez told MindaNews.
Hernandez learned about her grandchild’s death only last Maundy Thursday through a telephone call from New Bataan to her neighbor in Cotabato City. She arrived Monday night here, shocked to be told her grandchild was alleged to be “amazona daw” (amazon, they said), according to the military.
The military initially reported Grecil, allegedly a “child soldier of the NPA” was killed during an encounter between government forces and the NPA in Purok 6, Barangay Kahayag mid-morning of Saturday, March 31.
The Philippine Star on April 2 reported that Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniana said 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.
Obaniana told The STAR that minors are often recruited by communist guerrillas and he had seen this even during his stint as commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade in early 2000.
“We have arrested before a minor who was already in the movement and he even helped us locate his comrades’ hideouts. That incident in New Bataan only means that they are really using minors in their armed struggle,” Obaniana said.
Grecil’s relatives, however, denied the girl was an NPA member, prompting Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza, chief of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, to order an investigation into Grecil’s killing.
Holganza told MindaNews Tuesday last week that findings would be available within the next two days. As of 7 p.,m. April 10, however, Holganza had yet to release the findings.
But he told MindaNews last week that soldiers saw Grecil carrying a gun prior to the encounter and that her father, Gregorio Galacio, was a suspected NPA because two firearms and “subversive documents” were seized from his house. Galacio, a tuba gatherer, denied owning the seized materials and denied being an NPA guerrilla.
But he acknowledged to Holganza that a group of five NPA guerrillas that Saturday morning asked permission to cook in their house and to bathe in the creek a few meters down from the road across the house. He said yes, he told Holganza, because he felt he had no choice. The men were armed.
Grecil’s casket being moved out of the house of her maternal grandmother in Barangay Kahayag, New Bataan, Compostela Valley, April 10 en route to the Birhen sa Kasilak chapel for the final prayers and the public cemetery for the burial at noon. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Grecil had just completed Grade 2 at the Simsimen Elementary School, a 2.5 kilometer walk from their house in Purok 6, and was supposed to be a recipient of three merit ribbons which she failed to get because she arrived late in school during recognition day last month.
School representatives were expected to deliver the merit ribbons at the house of Grecil’s maternal grandmother this morning, prior to the burial but they did not arrive.
The eldest of four children, Grecil dreamt of becoming a doctor or a nurse.
A photograph taken by the military showed Grecil’s fallen body a few meters outside their house, her face down, her brains blows, an M-16 rifle as tall as her, a few meters to her left.
Grecil sustained a bullet in her right elbow but the fatal bullet hit the left side of her head.
Kahayag barangay captain Eulogio Almasa who carried the remains of Grecil from where she fell, said she saw no firearm beside the girl. He told MindaNews the soldiers escorted them to where Grecil’s body fell, at around 11 a.m.
The firefight started at around 8:45 a.m. and reportedly lasted an hour, according to the military. Holganza said reports reaching him said 38 NPA guerrillas were in the area.
No remains of an NPA guerrilla were found. Army PFC Ruben Bracera was injured but expired in an ambulance en route to the hospital in Tagum due to blood loss.
The photograph with the firearm must have been taken before the barangay captain was asked to get Grecil’s body.
“Dili gyud na rebelde ang bata,” (That child was definitely not a rebel), Almasa said.
Almasa said Grecil, his godchild, would often watch television in their house after school. She was a very respectful child, Almasa.
Grecil was “buotan” (a good child), the elders in the neighborhood said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)