Soldier hurt in NegOr encounter; nurse’s death angers youth groups


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ANOTHER clash between soldiers and a group of suspected rebels erupted yesterday morning in Oriental Negros, leaving a Cebuano soldier injured.

The gunfight took place hours before two other civilians who were killed in an encounter in the same province last week were buried.

Major Christopher Tampus, Central Command spokesperson, identified the wounded soldier in the latest incident as Private First Class Recto A. Moboayaen Jr., a resident of Barangay Pandacan, Pinamungahan, Cebu.

Moboayaen is recovering from gunshot wounds in the left knee and left hip.

He was taken to a hospital in the province. He would have been airlifted yesterday to Cebu but the transfer was put on hold upon his doctor’s advice.

Also yesterday, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) released an official statement on the death of 21-year-old nurse Rachelle Mae Palang.

When she was killed in an “encounter” between the military and armed rebels last Thursday, she died serving the poor and the deprived, her peers said.

“We shed our tears for Rachelle who was ruthlessly killed by armed goons of cold-blooded and self-serving tyrants. Her only fault, if it is a fault at all, was her love for those who are suffering because of an unjust system. Her only crime, if at all it is called a crime, was to give up her dreams of living a life of comfort in exchange for serving those who need her the most— the poor and the deprived. For this, she paid with her life,” read the CEGP statement.

Tampus said yesterday’s encounter happened around 7 a.m. in Sitio Mansugban-on, Barangay Manlukahoc, Sipalay City, Oriental Negros.

A section of Army troops under 61st Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Mc. Gary Dida traded gunfire with an estimated 17 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This occurred about five hours before the burial of Bernardo Villalonga and Jerry Cabungcag.

Villalonga, Cabungcag and Palang died in an alleged encounter between soldiers and rebels in Sitio Langub, Barangay Malungcay Dako, Dauin, Oriental Negros last week.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 is investigating the reported encounter, following a resolution passed by the Cebu Provincial Board.

Villalonga, who hailed from Sevilla town, Bohol, was buried at noon yesterday at the Carreta Cemetery, Cebu City.

At 2:30 p.m., Cabungcag, who resided in Sitio Lawis, Barangay Pasil, was buried in the same cemetery.

According to a radio DyLA report, the Municipal Council of Consolacion, Cebu, where Palang was a resident, passed a resolution supporting the Provincial Board’s call for the CHR 7 to dig deeper into the incident.

The council also passed a separate resolution extending their sympathy to the family of Palang. Palang’s father Elenito is a former municipal councilor.

In the encounter in Sipalay yesterday, Tampus said the troops led by Lt. Mc. Dida were on patrol when they spotted the 17 suspected rebels.

The gunfight that followed reportedly lasted 30 minutes.

Shortly after the gunfight, three suspected rebels were arrested.

Soldiers also confiscated an M16 Armalite rifle.

Those caught were identified as Meralyn Pedrosa Mahinay, alias Angel, 20; Robelyn Gelacio Aba, alias Geya, 22; and Roseby Fondador Cañete, alias Dyna, 19.

Tampus said the three were turned over to the Sipalay Police Station.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Inserto, Centcom commanding general, sent two Huey helicopters to the area to assist the troops in the operation.

Two Marchetti planes were also put on standby to be deployed if there was a need to provide air cover.

Inserto, however, reportedly told his men to “strictly observe rules of engagement and absolute respect for human rights.”

The CEGP, however, condemned the “malicious” attempt of the military to confuse and mislead the people, and for refusing to see the difference between CEGP as a legitimate alliance of student publications and those organizations calling for armed struggle.

Palang was the CEGP’s vice president for the Visayas while she was still a student of Velez College and editor-in-chief of their publication, Vital Signs.

“We are deeply insulted when the military praised and showered Mae-Mae’s killers with gifts and recognitions. Like barbarians, they celebrate in the death of a peace and freedom-loving person who helped more people than they ever will in their lifetime,” read the statement.

Mark Ray Sison of the Student Christian Movement at the University of San Carlos (USC) said in a press statement that he was dismayed by how the military transported the bodies, which hung from bamboo poles, covered in plastic and cloth.

“It’s as if they (the dead) were animals,” he said.

Chuck de los Santos, chairperson of the USC League of Filipino Students, said he hopes that others would be as principled as Palang was.

“We will continue what Rachelle struggled for. Her death did not create fear in us but rather, made us more militant and courageous in serving the people, whatever the cost may be,” he added. (JTG/EPB)

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