DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – Relatives, human rights and children’s rights groups here will file criminal charges against the military on the death of a child in Mabini town in Compostela Valley (ComVal).
Roque Antivo, 8, was killed last April 3 in an alleged strafing incident in ComVal, while two other children – Jeffrey Hernan, 13, and Earl John Antivo, 12 – sustained gunshot wounds and hit by shrapnel, respectively.
Participants of the funeral march for Antivo at the poblacion Wednesday demanded justice for the boy’s death.
Hanimay Suazo, of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said they transferred Hernan from the Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) in Tagum City to another hospital, which she refused to name, last Saturday. “He was not safe there because while in the DRH, the boy was being guarded by military personnel 24 hours a day,” she said.
Hernan, his mother Julita, two sisters and Karapatan members were already inside the van when a policeman asked about the boy’s profile before they could leave the DRH, Suazo said.
The groups blamed elements of the 71st Infantry Battalion for “indiscriminately firing” at the children.
In an earlier phone interview, Col. Angelito de Leon, commander of the Army’s 1001st Brigade, denied the allegation, saying the victims were caught in the crossfire during an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA).
On the other hand, Ka Simon Santiago, director general of the NPA Southern Mindanao’s political department, denied there was an encounter in Sitio Kidaraan, Barangay Maskareg in Mabini.
In a press statement, the NPA said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “twisted the facts to save face” by saying that the children were victims of crossfire.
Fidel Rius Valle, advocacy officer of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center Southern Mindanao Region Office (CRC-SMRO), said the group, along with the Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concerns in Mindanao, is supporting the family and relatives to achieve justice for Roque.
“We will not allow the government to protect criminals to cover up the widespread human rights violations under the Aquino government in its anti-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bayanihan,” Valle said.
Antivo is the fifth child victim of human rights violations in Southern Mindanao, and the 16th in the country under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the CRC-SMRO noted.
Valle cited the killing of seven-year-old Sunshine Jabinez allegedly perpetrated by a soldier belonging to the 71IB in Pantukan on September 2011, and the two sons of Juvy Capion, who were allegedly killed by elements of the 27IB in Tampakan, South Cotabato last October.
He said children’s rights groups have been alarmed by the situation because no perpetrator from the government has been prosecuted and punished.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 11 is now at the initial stage of investigation on the alleged strafing incident in ComVal.
Emiliano Cajes, Jr., CHR-11 officer in charge of the investigation division, told MindaNews Wednesday his office initiated a probe immediately upon knowing about the incident, especially that the victims are children.
De Leon said in an earlier press statement he “pledged full cooperation to the investigation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Mabini.”
The AFP’s 10th Infantry Division is also conducting its own probe, the statement said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)