(Left photo) Kate while looking at her childhood photos and having a virtual conversation with a relative abroad. (Right photo) Zenaida, Kate's mother, holds her in a tight embrace after two years. (Photos from 3MBde)

Contrary to claims that rebel surrenderee Justine Kate Raca is being held against her will, 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) commander Col. Jimmy Larida clarified Tuesday that she signed a voluntary affidavit to be in their custody when representatives of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) visited her at their base in Puerto Princesa.

Larida told Palawan News in a phone call that her mother Zenaida and sister Jian Nicole, are also at Marine Base Rodolfo Punsalang in Barangay Tiniguiban in Puerto Princesa, where they requested to stay to be with Kate since arriving Sunday, December 12.

“Pinuntahan siya ng mga representatives ng CHR dito para tingnan kung ano ang treatment namin sa kanya. May kasama rin sila na pulis, pumirma pa nga siya ng voluntary affidavit na dito niya sa Marines gustong magpa-custody,” Larida told Palawan News.

“Ang mother niya at saka ang sister niya ay dito rin nag-request na tumuloy para makasama siya, ayaw nila sa labas dahil inaalala rin nila ang security nila. Binigyan namin sila ng isang room dito, doon sila magkakasamang tatlo,” he added.

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The CHR representatives who visited her were Malou Sebastian and lawyer Vangie Valencia, he said.

Larida was reacting to a statement issued by Karapatan Southern Tagalog (KST) demanding that Raca be treated as a prisoner of war under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement previously forged between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Kyle Salgado of Karapatan said that considering her surrender, Kate has no intention to go against the government.

“Ang appeal naman namin ay hayaan nila si Kate at ‘wag ng itago sa custody ng mga marines. Kung may pananagutan man siya sa batas ay hayaan nilang lumaban at depensahan ang sarili niya sa batas,” Salgado told Palawan News.

Kate, a confessed member of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Palawan, surrendered to authorities after escaping from a military encounter with the Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) at Sitio Bayugon in Barangay Tinitian in the town of Roxas on December 10.

Remil Padilla Rodriguez, alias Azumi, who was a resident of Barangay Magara in the same municipality, was killed in the encounter.

Kate and Remil reportedly belong to the group under the command of NPA rebel leader Ka Miggy.

Salgado said that instead of including her as a beneficiary of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), Kate should be released and allowed to defend herself in court.

“Papapirmahin sila ng ECLIP na magbibigay serbisyo daw, pero malinaw naman na panloloko ito kagaya ng nangyari sa Palawan noon sa Brooke’s Point [na] pekeng pagpapasuko sa mga katutubong Pala’wan,” he said.

“Taliwas po ito sa prinsipyo ni Kate Raca at maaari kasing lumabas na pini-pressure si Kate na pumirma,” Salgado added.

Emotional reunion
Larida said Kate’s mother and sibling had an emotional reunion with her after arriving on December 12. Based on their account, they have not seen Kate since two years ago.

“Ang father niya is a ship captain. Masaya ang mother at saka sister niya na makita siya,” Larida said.

In a separate press release, the 3MBde said her mother brought photos of Kate when she was young to encourage her to embrace a new life. Her family members from Manila and abroad were also happy to see her via video call.

Kate, who went by the aliases Billy, Roha, Rocky, and Mira in the NPA, is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Education Major in English in U.P. Diliman. She joined the rebel group in 2019 and was the political officer or giyang pampulitika of the Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) before her surrender.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.