SOS Network reiterates call for probe on death of New Bataan 5

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 March) – The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network has reiterated its call for the Commission on Human Rights and other independent bodies locally, nationally and internationally to “conduct a swift, impartial and thorough investigation of the New Bataan 5 massacre,” citing autopsy findings that indicate what happened was an “overkill.” 

Citing the results of the autopsy performed on Lumad school volunteer teacher Chad, the Save Our Schools Network described as “overkill” what happened to the five persons the military said were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) killed in an “encounter.”

The SOS maintains what happened to the five “unarmed and defenseless” persons was a “massacre.”

“We also call on all supporters and allies to amplify our search for justice. There can be no peace until there is justice for their deaths and all victims of state-sponsored killings,” the SOS Network said. 

Priest officiates last rites for Lumad school volunteer teacher Chad Booc before interment in Cebu City on Wednesday, 9 March 2022. Booc was killed along with four others in New Bataan, Davao de Oro in what the military claimed to be an “encounter” but which colleagues of Booc say was a “massacre.” Booc’s sister Nikki said that though they mourn, “we continue to live out the same passion and the same dedication to marginalized sectors he once lived with.” She vowed to “find the justice you deserve.” Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network

The autopsy on Booc last March 7 showed the manner of his death was “homicide,” according to preliminary findings by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel B. Del Rosario-Fortun, which was released on March 10. 

The autopsy showed Booc succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds on his trunk and suffered from “internal hemorrhages with lacerations of the lungs, diaphragm, liver, spleen, stomach, intestines, right kidney and right adrenal gland.”

Booc’s death certificate stated that cause of his death was “acute blood loss due to multiple gunshot wounds” but manner of his death was not indicated.

Booc and fellow Lumad school volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II, community health worker Elegyn Balonga, and their accompanying drivers Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon — were killed in what the military said was an “encounter”  with the military’s 10th Infantry Division in Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro on February 24.

The group said that even if an autopsy was not conducted on the rest of New Bataan 5, the “initial observations of Jurain and Elegyn’s respective families on the bodies of the two are also similar — multiple gunshot wounds and bruises.”

“Radiologic examination disclosed bullets/ fragments in the trunk. A deformed bullet was recovered from the left chest wall,” it said.

The examination report said a “gunshot wound of the right elbow with fractures of the distal humerus, proximal radius and ulna.”

The report added that “fractures of some ribs and thoracic vertebrae” were seen while his “spinal cord was transected.”

“Forensic analysis of individual gunshot wounds to determine entry/exit sites, trajectory and range of fire is limited by postmortem repair, their multiplicity and proximity to one another. Reconstruction of the shooting incident requires more information regarding the other victims, scene, clothing worn and other physical evidence, “ it said.

“The AFP is growing more desperate to demonize and villainize community volunteers and activists who only sought to bring aid to far-flung communities that remain neglected by the government. This desperation among the ranks of the military is even clearer now that the fascist Duterte regime is coming to an end,” the SOS Network said.

It also slammed the military for “dehumanizing” the victims “by parading their corpses online like war trophies and delaying their families when they went to retrieve their bodies in Davao.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)