DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 August) – Relatives and the military have offered conflicting versions of the circumstances surrounding the death last month of a village watchman in Laak, Compostela Valley.
A military official said Totong Mabinsi, a Dibabawon was killed in an encounter between soldiers and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) last July 22.
But his family said that Mabinsi, a member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization in Barangay Datu Davao, Laak was murdered.
Mabinsi’s body was found in Kibuntayon River in the same barangay with 12 gunshot wounds in the back, Lina, his widow, said.
In a press conference on Wednesday Karapatan Southern Mindanao office here, Lina said Army soldiers told her that her husband acted as a guide of the NPA.
Manuel, Totong’s elder brother who was in the same press conference said elements of the 60th Infantry Battalion pumped several bullets into the victim’s back.
Manuel said the soldiers came from a detachment about a kilometer away from Sitio Dose Media, where Totong was going to hunt on that day.
Immediately after, he said the tribal chieftain arrived and said that Totong was killed because he was found armed with a 12-gauge shotgun while guiding seven NPA rebels.
Manuel said the village chief signed an affidavit that Totong was killed in an encounter between the soldiers and rebels.
But he said he could not believe that an encounter took place or that Totong was with the NPA, adding all the gunshot wounds were on the victim’s back and the embalmer found 10 shells in his body.
Lina said her husband only brought surit-surit, a homemade rifle that uses steel pellets for bullets and matches as igniter, when he left their house after breakfast.
“Why would they kill my husband when he was only a farmer? He was innocent. He went to the woods on that day to hunt for boars, which we sell to buy rice and other household needs,” she said.
Lina, who at the time was two-month pregnant with their fifth child, had a miscarriage upon learning of Totong’s death.
Manuel said a certain Lieutenant Gamos told him during the wake that they would give a sack of rice to Totong’s family every month and support his children over a period of six years.
But Manuel said he did not believe Gamos, as he would not know where to find the military official once he is reassigned.
“My only problem is the survival of my brother’s family. Who will support them now, especially the education of three of his children?” he said.
He said the military did not know he was going to Davao City to ask help from Karapatan, adding that he wanted justice for his brother who was innocent and had not violated any law.
Last August 7, Karapatan assisted Lina and Manuel in filing an affidavit of complaint with the Commission on Human Rights XI.
Lawyer Panfilo Lovitos Jr. of CHR’s protection and monitoring division told MindaNews that they are investigating the complaint.
Major Jake Obligado, chief of Civil-Military Operations Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division, said in a statement on Thursday that the 60th IB’s Charlie Company led by 1Lt. Gamos in Barangay Datu Davao encountered more or less 10 communist guerrillas at about 6:00am last July 22.
The statement said Mabinsi was an NPA member whose body was left behind after the firefight that lasted almost 10 minutes.
Obligado said the troops recovered “one homemade shotgun and several empty shells of different high powered firearms in the scene of encounter.”
He said the rebels tried to stage an ambush leading to the encounter.
He added that after the encounter the troops informed the barangay officials and coordinated with the Laak police for arrangements on Mabinsi’s body and the recovered items.
The soldiers also met with the villagers and extended assistance to Mabinsi’s family, the military official said.
Obligado has yet to comment on Manuel’s claim that Gamos promised to provide support for Totong’s children for six years. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)