The remains of the communist rebels who were killed in an encounter in Palawan were finally claimed Saturday by their families and flown out of the province, ending a week-long dilemma if they could take them back home for proper burial rights.
The remains of Andrea Rosal (Ka Naya), Bonifacio Magramo (Salvador Luminoso), Rona Manalo (Ka Amir), and Noel Siasico (Ka Celnon) left the Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPIA) at 3 p.m., September 12, via a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight that landed at the NAIA Terminal 2.
Casey Cruz, Karapatan paralegal and spokesperson for the families of the “Brooke’s Point 5”, told Palawan News in a phone call that they will be taken to their respective provinces so they can rejoin other relatives.
Cruz said Manalo, touted to be a Gabriela official in Mindoro by Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) chief, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., will be given a funeral tribute by her University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) classmates.
“After makumpleto ang dokumento ay maiiuwi na sila sa kanilang mga lugar para sa maayos na libing. Si Manalo ay bibigyan din ng tribute ng kanyang mga kaklase sa UPLB,” she said.
They were allowed to go home after completing local requirements, including proof of family ties, and after the release of their death certificates by the Palawan Provincial Crime Laboratory (PPCL) headed by Lt. Col. Marites Tecson.
Unclaimed remains of Ka Rj
Karapatan is also appealing for local government officials to help give a proper burial to Jay-ar Sento, alias Ka Rj, who was among those killed in the encounter at Sitio Kubuyoan, Barangay Mainit, Brooke’s Point.
“Sana mabigyan din ng maayos na libing, kung hindi man ma-claim. Baka dahil katutubo ay walang documents na maipakita,” Cruz said.
Sento was a Pala’wan indigenous people recruited in the armed struggle from Barangay Ipilan, Brooke’s Point.
But sources at the provincial government said his body had already been claimed by the chairman of Ipilan.
Complaint before CHR
On September 11, Rosal’s relative Jose Inandan went to the Commission on Human Right’s (CHR) main office in Quezon City with Karapatan and meet with Commissioner Roberto Eugenio Cadiz to seek help on claiming the bodies.
Inandan also filed complaints of “red-tagging” against the Palawan Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC) for harassing the families and the Karapatan paralegals while they are in the quarantine facility of the city.
“Dahil po yong nanghihingi nga kami ng tulong para mapadali ang pag-uwi ng labi ng aming kaanak na nasawi. Noong pagdating namin, akala namin ay okay na pero, ang dami pa palang problema,” he said.
He claimed the families, while in Puerto Princesa, were persecuted by WESCOM after branding them as individuals affiliated to the communist.
The movements of the families or claimants of the remains and the Karapatan humanitarian team were also constantly kept under surveillance, making them worried and anxious, Inandan said.
Karl Vegnotea, also a Karapatan paralegal, said the families are complaining about the “apparent intervention” of WESCOM in delaying the transportation of the remains.
“Una, yong apparent na intervention ng Western Command sa mga local government units. Kasi di naman po naitago sa amin ng mga taga-local government units. According to them, kailangan daw ng clearance from Western Command ng mga ginagawa namin. Saang mandate yon nagfa-fall, hindi ba?” he said.
“Ang reason po ay yong tuloy-tuloy na vilification at saka red-tagging habang nandoon kami. Medyo intimidating at saka harassing po siya sa families at sa paralegal. Habang sumusunod at nakikipag-cooperate kami properly with the LGUs, may mga online red-tagging na ginagawa… una, kinukwestyon yong validity kung bakit kami (Karapatan) nandoon,” Vegnotea added.
He said as a human rights group, it is not Karapatan’s fault if the families came to them to seek help to claim the remains of their dead loved ones.
WESCOM denies accusations of harassment
Fr. Stephen Penetrante, spokesperson of WESCOM, said the accusations of Karapatan that they are harassing them are “all baseless”.
He said WESCOM has nothing to do with the delay in the claiming of the remains because the “jurisdiction” was entrusted to the police and the local government after military troops brought them down from Sitio Kubuyoan, Barangay Mainit after the clash.
“Saan ang basis nila at maayos na ebidensya? We do not harass them, we do not hostage the cadavers or whatever. We want to make it clear that WESCOM does not have jurisdiction anymore over the bodies of the slain NPAs as the responsibility was already entrusted to the PNP and the LGUs for appropriate disposition,” Penetrante said.
He said Karapatan and the families must understand that health and safety protocol is “obviously in effect and strictly implemented in the province, exempting no one”.
Penetrante added it is not a question of delay, but what was Karapatan doing in Palawan.
“Every day, they keep ranting and raving for the immediate release of the cadavers, but everyone else knew that they are just making propaganda out of it, considering they are not even the legitimate next of kin,” he added.
Penetrante said Karapatan is a group of “heartless and hypocrite individuals” who is afraid of being red-tagged yet will likely show up every time they hear their armed group or NPAs suffer defeat.
“It is high time that people should know and understand the real color and motive of this group. The decision of the release of the body is not a part of WESCOM. There is no harassment. Even the 3rd Marine Brigade carried down the bodies of their relatives — they retrieved them and turned them to the local government units concerned. Hindi iniwanan ang mga bangkay doon sa place of encounter. What harassment are they talking about?” Penetrante said.