In a press conference held at the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) Monday, Eryo Inahan, Chairman of the Manobo Farmers Association in Pangantucan, Bukidnon, said that the victims, who died in a reported military encounter in Pangantucan, Bukidnon last Wednesday, were innocent civilians.
“We want the military to clear the names of the victims because they (victims) were not rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) as alleged by the military,” Inahan told the local press.
Inahan said that the oldest among the victims was a blind 72-year-old man and the youngest was a 14-year-old minor, all members of the Manobo clan, an indigenous tribe in Bukidnon.
He identified the victims as Mateo Samia, 72, brothers Wilmer and Elmer Simena, Ibe Samia and the 14-year-old minor as Kadong Samia.
Inahan said that Lontoy Samia, 15, the elder brother of Kadong Samia, managed to escape to tell the alleged massacre story.
Lontoy alleged that the military shot them one-by-one after they went down from their house on orders of the military, Inahan said.
“Nakikiramay kami sa mga namatayan,” said Army’s 403rd spokesman Capt. Norman Tagros.
Tagros said the encounters were legitimate.
“Nasa area ng encounter ang mga bikitima at kung hindi man sila mga meyembro sa NPA dapat wala sila doon,” said Tagros.
Tagros said that they encountered a group of armed rebels in the village of Mandog Mendez, 9-kilometers from the town of Pangantucan last Wednesday.
Tagros even said that the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in the municipal police station in Pangantucan conducted an investigation of the incident and submitted an official report about the death of the victims.
Based on the SOCO report, the military recovered 19 backpacks, an AK-47 rifle, and the bodies of the five persons in the encounter site, according to Tagros.
“While the military laments the unfortunate incident, the family of the victims has the right to call for an investigation – it is their right,” Tagros said in response to the accusation of the Manobo tribesmen association.