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Zarate seeks probe of claims that gov’t forces mistook farmers as NPA rebels

By Gabriel Pabico Lalu / Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate. file photo / Noy Morcoso

MANILA — Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on Friday called for an investigation into claims that suspected communist rebels that government troops killed during a firefight in Masbate were just mere farmers.

In a statement, Zarate said that as much as they have condemned and called for an action on the anti-personnel land mine explosion set up by the New People’s Army (NPA), they are also calling on the government to check whether recent claims about the police killing farmers.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) recently admitted that it members of their armed wing NPA who were responsible for the deaths of Far Eastern University football standout Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon.

“Naglabas na din ng pahayag dito ang Makabayan Bloc sa ating pakikiisa sa pagdadalamhati ng pamilya at sa pagkundina natin sa naging military action na ito ng isang NPA unit sa Masbate. Ang ating panawagan ay magkaroon ng isang malalim na imbestigasyon doon sa mga involved na mga individuals,” Zarate said.

(Makabayan bloc has already issued a statement condoling the family, while condemning the military action done by an NPA unit in Masbate. Our call is for a thorough investigation about the individuals involved in the incident.)

“Pagkatapos ng insidenteng yan ay nagkaroon din ng mga pagpaslang sa mga magsasaka sa Masbate. Ito naman ay sinabi ng AFP at pinaratangan sila na mga rebelde. Pero ang sabi po ng mga pamilya, ang mga napaslang na mga ito ay magsasaka at pinaratangan silang kabahagi noong nangyaring insidente sa magpinsang Absalon,” he added.

(But after this incident, there was a massacre of farmers from Masbate. This was being touted by AFP as an attack against rebels. But the families said that those killed are mere farmers and were only accused of being involved in the incident concerning the Absalon cousins.)

Reports on Wednesday said that three communist rebels were killed as local police and military units were doing pursuit operations of fighters responsible for the land mine explosion. However, there are Facebook posts from alleged relatives of those killed that said one of the victims was just a farmer, while another was a barangay official.

“Nitong mga nakaraang araw nga ay nagviral yung video ng anak nito na umiiyak humihingi ng katarungan doon sa pagkapaslang ng kanyang ama na walang namang kinalaman doon sa nangyaring insidente sa Absalon cousins. Pinapanawagan din natin na magkaroon ng malalim na imbestigasyon dito at para mabigyan din ng hustisya ang kanilang pagkapaslang,” Zarate claimed.

(During the past few days, a video went viral showing the child of a victim crying as she was asking for justice for the killing of her father who was not involved in the killing of the Absalon cousins. We are also calling for a thorough investigation in this case to provide justice for the victims.)

Previous reports said that Kieth and Nolven, along with the latter’s 16-year-old son, were biking in Masbate’s Barangay Anas when the explosion happened. The minor survived the incident, but was left with some injuries.

NPA earned widespread criticism for the incident, with different sectors reminding it to follow the International Humanitarian Law, which has banned the use of anti-personnel land mines as it cannot distinguish between combatant and non-combatant.

Lawmakers from the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc, including Zarate, have condemned the incident in Masbate. In doing so, they also clarified that the case must be referred to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), which handles alleged human rights violations committed by both government forces and communist rebels.

While Makabayan’s stand on the incident drew praises from several sectors as they have been seen as communist sympathizers, another left-leaning group demanded them to refrain from being selective in what kind of supposed NPA atrocities would be condemned.

According to Akbayan, the Makabayan bloc must not react on issues only if the incident landed the front pages of news papers. has sought Makabayan bloc’s side, but they have yet to respond to Akbayan’s particular claim as of posting time.



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