Ground reports that reached NPA units in Compostela Valley painted a gruesome story of the 71st IB’s wanton disregard for the lives of civilians and their consequent effort to sweep their crime under the rug. Armed with only flashlights and an improvised marble gun, Franklin Tirol, Zaldy Tirol and one other, all farmers and part-time small-scale miners, were doing night-time hunting (panulo) of frogs, civet cat (milo) and other edible animals when, without warning, at around 1:00 in the morning, they were mercilessly fired upon for several minutes by members of the 71st IB. Killed instantaneously was Franklin while his cousin Zaldy died from sustained wounds a few hours after arriving at the hospital. AFP troops likewise arrested the third companion who also sustained severe gunshot wounds.
Learning that its troops rained bullets over civilians, the 71st IB’s Civil Military Operations was quick to do damage control in the media and immediately churned out fake news to wash the blood off their hands. The fascist liars claimed that the youths were members of the NPA and even showed photos of the slain civilians as though these legitimized the commission of murder and the “seized” weapons that included improvised explosive device and other paraphernalia. They even absurdly insisted that one of their forces sustained gunshot wounds.
However, the condemnation and adamant denial of Franklin Tirol’s mother that the two were members of the NPA belied the ridiculous claims of the 71st IB. Helpless and grieving, she fears for her right to demand justice for the murder of her son and nephew. Even a cursory survey of the masses in the community would prove that the murdered youths were in fact civilians.
This is not the first time that the 71st IB displayed such stark disregard for human rights and got away with it. In the province, its forces are known as “child-killer battalion” who murdered 7-year old Sunshine Jabinez in September 2011 in Pantukan and 8-year old Roque Antivo in April 2013 in Mabini. Later that same year, on December 6, 2013, they killed Pedro Tinga, a 57-year old Mansaka tribal leader, in Maco. Not only were the culprits of these atrocious crimes remained scot-free, but the 71st IB itself enjoyed impunity for sowing terror in their areas of operation, especially since Duterte’s implementation of martial law in Mindanao. Its troops clearly follow in the fascist footsteps of their former notorious commander Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan, who has already been found guilty for the rape and murder of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
The US-Duterte regime’s campaign of massacre and genocide against peasants and indigenous people is clearly the hallmark of Duterte’s tyrannical rule. The murders in Mabini happened just 2 days before yesterday’s Negros massacre where 14 farmers (eight in Calaon City, four in Majuyod town and 2 in Catalina City) were massacred by police officers and soldiers under the guise of an anti-criminality drive on March 30.
NPA units under the Comval – Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Operations Command have already been directed to ensure that revolutionary justice be afforded to the families of the victims. Perpetrators of the crime must be identified, investigated and indicted in the people’s court and, following a trial conducted by organs of political power and in accordance to existing conditions in the guerilla base, appropriate punishment must be meted out.
We urge the officials of the local governments in Mabini and Compostela Valley to aid the family in seeking justice for the murder of the two youths. They must immediately demand the release of arrested youth who is currently detained under false charges and suffering trauma from the incident. The crimes of the 71st IB, including the ones that they skirted responsibility on, must be exposed and severely condemned. We also call upon the foot soldiers of the 71st IB who know the truth of the AFP’s culpability and deceit in covering up the heinous crime. There is no glory, even as you are being paid blood money to carry out crimes against the masses in Compostela Valley, in serving a fascist killing machine that victimizes your fellow peasants and Lumad.
Finally, we urge the Lumad and peasant masses in Compostela Valley province to show their indignation by continuing to demand that the 71st IB pay for their crimes against the people and thoroughly driving them out of the province. Only by exhausting all forms of resistance, such as linking arms with the people’s movement against the US-Duterte regime’s escalating fascism and impunity and most especially joining the revolutionary armed struggle being waged by the NPA, will the state-sponsored terrorism be stopped and the brutal enemy be made to face revolutionary justice.