Eight individuals killed by soldiers on 51st anniversary of martial law

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

September 25, 2023

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) marked the 51st anniversary of martial law by brutally killing eight individuals in two separate incidents in Negros Occidental and Masbate, in full contravention of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

On September 21, farmer couple Jover and Aimee Villegas were gunned down by soldiers and CAFGU elements at 5 a.m. in Sitio Basak, Barangay Luna, Placer, Masbate. Jover was reportedly in a pasture to feed his carabao when he was suddenly shot by operating troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA). When his wife Aimee went to him after hearing the gunshot, she was likewise killed by the troopers. The victims were reportedly brutally shot until Jover’s face was crushed and his eyes were gouged out.

In a disturbingly familiar script, the perpetrators later claimed that the couple were NPA members killed in a military encounter.

On the same date, six persons, including a pregnant woman were massacred at 7:50 p.m. in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental by elements of the 47th IBPA. The massacre victims were Alejo delos Reyes; his wife Melissa dela Peña who was six months pregnant; Marjon Alvior; Bobby Pedro; Mario Mullon; and an unnamed woman.

According to reports, the victims comprised a rebel couple on medical leave because the wife was six months pregnant; three medical personnel of the New People’s Army; and a civilian tricycle driver. The six, all of whom were unarmed, were reportedly aboard a tricycle travelling along Sitio Lubi when soldiers from the 47th IBPA suddenly fired at them. The 47th IBPA later falsely reported that the six were killed in a 10-minute armed encounter.

International Humanitarian Law calls for distinctions between civilians and combatants and prohibits attacks even on combatants who are not directly engaged in hostilities (hors de combat). 

In these two incidents, the victims were either civilians or unarmed combatants who posed no threat. They should not have been attacked or harmed. Yet they were deliberately targeted by government soldiers, in actions that spoke of their utter contempt for civilians and hors de combat under International Humanitarian Law.

Karapatan demands a stop to the steadily growing cases of IHL violations committed by the AFP in the course of its brutal counter-insurgency war in the countryside. 

We are appalled by the militarist policies and the climate of impunity imposed and perpetuated by the Marcos Jr. regime that enable its troopers to inflict civilian casualties cavalierly during military operations. 

We call on the Commission on Human Rights and other independent bodies to conduct serious investigations of these and other rampant violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.