DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 April) – An 8-year old boy died on Wednesday in an alleged strafing incident a village in Mabini town, Compostela Valley that a human rights group blamed on soldiers.
Karapatan Southern Mindanao identified the victim as Roque Antivo, of Sitio Kidaraan, Barangay Maskareg, who sustained a gunshot wound in his left chest.
The other victims were Jeffrey Hernan, 13, who was wounded in his chin and left shoulder, and Earl John Antivo, 12, who was hit with shrapnel in his left cheek, according to Karapatan’s Hanimay Suazo.
Suazo, who joined a fact-finding mission to the site, said that around 6:30 pm of April 3, 18 elements of the 71st Infantry Battalion Alpha Company led by 2nd Lt. Llorca “indiscriminately fired” at the three children.
She said the victims’ accounts “clearly stated that there was no encounter that happened and they heard only seven shots of gunfire from the military.”
“There was no presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the area,” she added.
Ka Simon Santiago, director general of the NPA Southern Mindanao’s political department, told MindaNews in a text message on Friday that no encounter occurred between them and the military in Kidaraan on Wednesday.
He admitted though that the NPA’s Front Guerilla Unit-Front 2 ambushed elements of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion at 4pm of April 3 in Candinuyan, Barangay Libudon, Mabini, killing two soldiers.
Col. Angelito de Leon, commander of the 1001st Brigade denied in a phone interview Friday that the government troops fired indiscriminately at civilians.
He said an encounter ensued after the NPA ambushed the Scout Rangers killing two of them and wounding two others.
He added that troops from the 71IB led by Llorca were sent to reinforce and retrieve the casualties of the encounter in Libudon, which is adjacent to Kidaraan.
De Leon said a brief firefight erupted after Llorca’s team was fired upon by an NPA blocking force in Kidaraan.
He said the Army troops recovered unexploded landmines at the scenes of the encounters.
“We’ll subject ourselves to investigation,” he told MindaNews.
Capt. Jeffry Balingao, civil military operations officer of the 1001st Brigade, said in a press statement that financial assistance has been given to the children and their families.
He added that the police in Mabini as well as the 10th Infantry Division were investigating the incident.
Hernan was being treated at the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)