Indict Duterte and the AFP in the cold-blooded massacre of the New Bataan 5!
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region vehemently condemns the abduction and subsequent massacre of five civilian individuals by fascist troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Brgy. Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro last February 23.
The Filipino people hold the tyrannical Duterte regime and the AFP responsible for the heinous crime that calls to mind numerous bloody extra-judicial killings and abductions of the Marcos martial era and succeeding fascist reactionary regimes.
On the evening of February 23, Chad Errol Booc and Gelejurain Ngujo II, both volunteer Lumad school teachers; Elgyn Balonga, a community health worker; and two other individuals were accosted by AFP soldiers in a checkpoint in Brgy. Poblacion. By morning on February 24, their lifeless bodies were found sprawled on a dirt road in Purok 8, Brgy. Andap.
The military checkpoint is only a few kilometers away from the headquarters of the 66th Infantry Battalion in New Bataan.
The local NPA unit and masses in the area have confirmed that no armed encounter took place in the area during the time of the abduction. Clearly, the unarmed civilians were extra-judicially killed by the fascist troops. To cover up its crime and make war trophies out of it, the 10th Infantry Division peddled lies that the victims were members of the NPA and killed in an armed encounter.
The three activists and their two companions were neither combatants nor part of any NPA unit operating in the countryside. They were advocates whose only weapons were their pen, voice and avowed commitment to serve the Lumad and peasant communities.
The bloody massacre of the New Bataan 5 plainly demonstrates the fascist impunity that Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan has normalized and enabled in its tyrannical reign. Embodied and implemented by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the carnage is proof of the lethal danger of the regime’s modus operandi of terrorist-labelling and vilification campaign as prelude to harassment, incarceration, abduction and even murder.
For several years, Booc, Ngujo and Balonga have been red-tagged for their education and health advocacies for peasants and Lumad in Mindanao. Booc was jailed in early 2021 along with other teachers and Lumad leaders following a police raid of a Lumad Bakwit school in Cebu City. When they were released several months later, Booc and the others were threatened by the mouthpieces of the AFP and NTF-ELCAC that state forces will continue to come after them. The New Bataan massacre is the heinous fulfillment of that thinly-veiled threat.
While the people grieve for their loss of selfless servants in the struggle for their democratic rights and interests, they are nevertheless outraged at the Duterte regime that continues to weaponize the entire reactionary system, draconian legislations and enabling fascist military-junta to go after legitimate dissent in the name of counterinsurgency.
The Anti-Terror Law is a blunt weapon being bullheadedly brandished by the rabid AFP and NTF-ELCAC to legally lump together combatants and non-combatants alike, label them wholesale as terrorists and render them targets for arrests and liquidation. Booc, Ngujo and Balonga, like most red-tagged civilians, activists and even personalities from the reactionary political opposition, suffered relentless vilification before being thrown in jail or murdered.
Just mere two days before this year’s commemoration of the 1986 EDSA popular uprising against the Marcos dictatorship, the New Bataan 5 massacre is a gruesome reminder of state fascism that continues to be a stark reality more than 30 years later. With the looming return of a Marcos progeny to the highest reactionary political seat and an effective perpetuation of Duterte’s brand of tyranny, the massacre is likewise a call to arms to all freedom-loving Filipinos. It is the kind of careless brutality that sends the youth and other Filipinos to the streets to protest or wage armed resistance with the NPA in the countryside.
The Filipino people demand a thorough, independent and impartial investigation of the massacre in New Bataan. They hold the Duterte regime and the AFP accountable and demand the culprits to be indicted for the crime and all other crimes they committed against the people. Most of all, they clamor for revolutionary justice which they know can only be achieved by waging the national democratic revolution.