CHR-12: Troops in death of 7 in Tumbras, Midsayap to face human rights raps

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 28 October) — Human rights violations will be filed against the policemen and soldiers involved in the October 23 operation that killed seven alleged members of the Islamic State-aligned Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Tumbras, Midsayap, North Cotabato, the Commission on Human Rights-Region 12 (CHR-12) here said Monday.

Erlan Deluvio, CHR-12 director, said they are assisting the family build a case against the operating troops for violating the International Humanitarian Law, particularly “the principle of distinction in non-international armed conflict.”

Minors, relatives said; child warriors, the military said of those who were killed in an alleged encounter between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Barangay Tumbras, Midsayap, North Cotabato on October 23, 2019. Contributed photo

Citing their investigation, Deluvio contradicted the pronouncement of the military that those killed on October 23 in Sitio Narra, Barangay Tumbras, Midsayap were BIFF members, including child warriors.

The victims’ families will serve as complainants-witnesses to the case, he said.

“The seven victims were friends and neighbors and they lived in the same community at the evacuation center in Purok Mahogany in Barangay Tumbras,” he told MindaNews.

“They were simply there (Sitio Narra, Barangay Tumbras) to fish and gather palay. They only happen(ed) to have slept there in the shack, a small hut for temporary shelter (pahingahan) of farmers/fishermen,” he said, explaining the circumstances of their death.

According to Deluvio, those killed included four minors, two 18-year-olds and another 25-year-old.

In a recent statement, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said the joint military and police team killed seven BIFF members, including sub-leader Mama Macalimbol from the faction headed by Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos.

Macalimbol was the subject of a warrant of arrest for multiple attempted murder, according to the military statement.

In a telephone interview Monday, Major Arvin Encinas, Westmincom spokesperson, said among those killed during the 40-minute gunfight were BIFF child warriors. He welcomed the possible complaints that will be filed against them.

In debunking the military’s claim, Deluvio pointed out that one of those killed wore earrings, which, according to the human rights lawyer, “is not allowed by the BIFF.”

Deluvio said the troops allegedly cut the index finger of “Angelo,” one of the victims, for “DNA confirmation that he was Mama Macalimbol.”

But Angelo was only 16-year-old while Macalimbol, a bomb suspect, was believed to be in his 40s, Deluvio noted. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)