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Karapatan urged to probe Bukidnon slays

Francis Wakefield

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The Commander of the Army’s 403rd Brigade has called anew on Human Rights group Karapatan to investigate the killings of three non-combatants whose remains were recently exhumed in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon made the challenge in response to Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay’s refusal to heed the call for her group “to investigate the rights of those three non-combatants.”

“Ms. Palabay said that they only investigate atrocities allegedly committed by the military. She therefore concludes that the Kitaotao killings were not perpetrated by the military. Does that mean she had an idea who their killers were? Why was she quick in concluding, she made an earlier investigation?,” De Leon asked.

“Maybe she could reveal in public what made her conclude that the killings were not perpetrated by state forces, thus beyond Karapatan’s “mandate.” By the way, who gave Karapatan that “limited and selective mandate?” he asked.

De Leon said the victims were killed in cold blood, thus the need for them to probe the incident.

“Was there no violation of rights in that specific killing which merits an investigation by a rights group like Karapatan? The Philippine National Police (PNP) is doing an investigation. What I am asking is a parallel investigation by Karapatan,” De Leon said

“Just because the state forces were not involved, does that mean those killed don’t have the right to be given justice? That’s another question I challenge Madam Cristina Palabay to answer,” he added

De Leon, at the same time, said that they also seeking for an investigation by the UN Rights body and other international rights advocates to check on the statement of Ms. Palabay.

The 403rd Brigade which is under the jurisdiction of the 4th Infantry Division, is based at Camp Osito d Bahian, Barangay 10, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

The remains of three people said to be victims of summary killings allegedly perpetrated by members of the Communist New People’s Army Terrorist Group (CNTG) were exhumed in Bukidnon Province on Thursday, 22 August.

Maj. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., the Commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division and Col. Nolasco Mempin, the Brigade Commander of 1003rd Infantry Brigade, together with the staff of Eastmincom led the Inter-Agency Group which supervised the exhumation process at Barangay Digongan, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

The exhumation was done by the members of the community, the PNP Kitaotao, Scene of the Crime Operatives, 89th Infantry Battalion (IB), victims’ family members and the LGU of Kitaotao.

In an information relayed by Lt. Col. Silas Trasmontero, the Commander of the 89IB, the gravesite were revealed to them by the members of the Komiting Rebolusyonaryo sa Municipalidad who dissociated from the CNTG on 7 August, after the Battalions conducted a Community Support Program in the area.