CHR urged to investigate murder of five hors de combat in Bohol

KARAPATAN condemns the reported extrajudicial killings of five hors de combat in a supposed armed encounter between the New People’s Army (NPA) and combined forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s Task Force Bohol and 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) in Sitio Matin-ao 2, Barangay Campagao, Bilar, Bohol on February 23, 2024.

According to reports from the locality, five members of the NPA—Domingo Compoc, Perlito Historia, Marlon Omosura, Alberto Sancho and Hannah Jay Cesista—(collectively known as the Bilar 5) had been apprehended alive by military and police forces and later summarily executed even if they were rendered unable to fight and posed no threat to their captors. The killings are blatant violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Upon capture, the men were reportedly ordered to take off their shirts. Everyone was ordered to roll in the mud, apparently to make it look like the NPA members had been in a firefight. A local resident was able to take a picture of one of the hors de combat, Domingo Compoc, showing him half naked with his hands apparently tied behind his back, but very much alive and being guarded by a soldier in fatigue uniform and armed with a rifle.

The PNP claims that the operation was conducted to serve warrants on Compoc who had been charged with several cases ranging from rebellion to multiple murder, and that Compoc and his companions “fought back.” Still another story had emerged from the AFP, stating that its forces were on a combat operation in the area when they encountered the NPA group, never mentioning the service of a warrant. Other reports state that Compoc’s body bore multiple stab wounds, and that Cesista’s body bore numerous bruises, indicating that they may have been tortured before they were summarily executed. Many other versions are likely to come out, with both the AFP and PNP either wanting to claim credit for the “kills” or avoid accountability altogether for the reported IHL violations.

Given the conflicting versions from the AFP, PNP and witnesses from the locality, we urgently call on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct an independent and thoroughgoing investigation. The CHR must conduct a serious probe of possible gross violations of International Humanitarian Law and guarantee the safety and security of local residents who may be willing to testify in order to ferret out the truth about the death of the “Bilar 5.”

With the killing of the “Bilar 5” only the latest reported summary killing of hors de combat by State security forces, we also urge the CHR to look into previous cases involving both the “nanlaban” scenario and the use of “encounter” narratives as a means by State forces to justify the killings and escape accountability for their war crimes.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed, including Hannah Jay Cesista, a former paralegal of KARAPATAN Central Visayas, as we support all efforts towards genuine justice.