Esperon on P200,000 “blood money:” “I deny that”

The amount, he said, will depend on “what the needs are.”

“But nothing like that,” he said, referring to the P200,000.

Eight persons, including two children aged four and nine, and a soldier-integree on vacation, were killed as soldiers raided the coastal Barangay Ipil in Maimbung, a village dominated by agar-agar (seaweed) farmers shortly before dawn of February 4.

The military said nothing about “collateral damages,” insisting that what happened that day was a “legitimate encounter” allegedly with the Abu Sayyaf.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), however, said there was no presence of or sighting of the Abu Sayyaf there. The CHR described what happened that day as a “wanton carnage.”

The CHR’s regional office in Zamboanga City transmitted to the Ombudsman for the Military on April 18 its April 14 resolution recommending the filing of charges against the soldiers whose names were withheld by the military but whose units have been identified.

Asked why the military isn’t naming the soldiers, Esperon said soldiers involved need not be named publicly but some of them are “for court martial.”

The CHR also recommended the application of command responsibility “to maintain justice in the country.”

Rachma, one of the survivors, told a roundtable discussion on ”Media, Civil Society, Human Rights and Peace: Giving voice to the victims” at the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City on April 28 that they were being offered the amount of P200,000 “blood money” per family. The emissary, she said, claimed the money came from the office of Esperon.

As of today, the families of the victims are still waiting for the Ombudsman for the Military to file criminal and administrative charges against the soldiers involved in the “wanton carnage.”

Rachma said not one relative of the victims has accepted the “blood money.”

Among the Tausugs, acceptance of “blood money” means settlement, so the victims’ kin who accepts that “blood money” can no longer file charges against the person or persons who did them wrong.

But the pressure on the victims’ kin from various sectors to accept the “blood money” is getting more intense.

Lawyer Jose Manuel Mamauag, CHR regional director recalls how in several instances in the past, cases ended up not filed at all as victims’ kin succumbed to pressure. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)