2 Killed, 3 injured and another illegally arrested after strafing incident in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental

On January 26, 2009, Karapatan-Negros received reports of a strafing incident that allegedly occurred on the evening of January 25, 2009, at around 9:30 PM.  Initial reports reaching Karapatan-Negros indicate that around fifteen (15) soldiers from the Alpha Company of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) surrounded the house of spouses Porferio and Beverly Pableo located at Exodus Ubal, Brgy. Panubigan, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental.   Said soldiers of 11th IBPA, led by Lt. Rey Cañete, open fired on the Pableo home.   

There were two fatalities reported while two were injured in the strafing incident.

A fact-finding mission (FFM) was organized by Karapatan-Negros and participated in by individuals from GABRIELA-Negros and human rights advocates from Canlaon Peoples’ Rights Movement.  The FFM was held on January 27 to verify the said incident and assist the victims.  

The FFM learned that on January 24, 2009 (Saturday) the relatives of Porferio Pableo  namely Felix Renobata, Jimmy Calago, Geovanie Ogang and Francisco O. Bailing, who planned to go to the next day's “ayagan” (market day) in Canlaon City, stayed overnight at the Pableo home. No one knew that their brief stay at the Pableo household would earn the suspicion by  state security forces and prompt the same to strafe the house.

On the afternoon of January 25, Porferio and his four (4) relatives went to the ayagan  and stopped at a nearby store for a drink. That afternoon, elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Canlaon City arrived and body searched every customer in the store, including the five. The five headed back to Porferio's house at about 8 o'clock in the evening.

At around 9:30 PM, while the Pableo couple and their family were asleep, a sudden burst of gunfire was heard. Hit on the spot were Felix and Geovani.  Porferio’s thirteen-year-old son, Gerald heard someone order all the people in the house to “turn on the lights and surrender.” He saw his mother Beverly stand and turned on the light. Then there was another series of gunfire. Beverly was hit in the chest, causing her to fall.

Twelve-year-old Erwin saw his father Porferio dropping to the ground and covering his sister Gemma, 9 and their niece Mary Joy, 6.  Porferio was also hit by a bullet.  

When the firing stopped, Gerald saw several soldiers enter the house and search their belongings.  He said one of them even aimed a gun at the head of Felix Renobata, who was already dead during that time. According to Gerald, he also caught sight of his mother still breathing, but none of the soldiers gave any medical attention to her or the others who were wounded.

Information gathered by the FFM from the Canlaon Hospital's medical personnel also revealed that it was already past midnight when injured victims Jimmy Calago and Geovani Ogang and Beverly Pableo (Dead On Arrival) were brought to the hospital.  

In a news report (The Visayan Daily Star, Janaury 30, 2009), the army accused the victims as New People's Army (NPA) guerillas and supporter.  Lt. Col. Franco Nemesio, 11th IBPA Commander said that it was a “strike mission” executed by his troops based on information about the presence of NPA rebels in the area.  He also claimed that the occupants of the Pableo home engaged his men in a gunfight.   Pableo's sons however said no such thing happened and none of their relatives had firearms.

The army, through the Provincial Inter Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) headed by Sr. Supt. Augustus Marquez Jr., filed criminal charges against Porferio Pableo, Jimmy Calago, Geovani Ogang and Francisco Bailing, details of which are as follows:   

  •     The information filed against Pableo at the Negros Oriental Regional Trial Court cites  violation of Sec. 3, RA 8294 for alleged possession of one (1) live Rifle Grenade for M16 with casing.
  •     Bailing was charged before the Canlaon City Municipal Trial Court for Violation of Sec. 3, RA 8294 for alleged possession of ten (10) live ammunitions for Caliber 30 Carbine.
  •     Calago was charged with illegal possession of one (1) live rifle grenade for M16 rifle with casing while Ogang was charged with illegal possession of one (1) live rifle grenade for M16 rifle.

Major Nathaniel Villasor, Officer of the Civilian Military Office (CMO) and Spokesperson of 303rd Brigade disclosed to media that they intend to file a case against Karapatan-Negros for alleged violation of RA 7610 for allegedly using children in “propaganda war,” this after Karapatan-Negros organized a press conference on January 29 upon the request of the victims' families to ventilate their concern through the media.

Among those who faced the media are Pableo's children. They have appealed to put a stop to labeling their loved ones and have asked for an independent investigation.