By TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY – Child rights advocates cried irony over the prosecutor’s dropping of murder complaints against army soldiers implicated in the shooting to death of an eight-year old boy in Mabini, Compostela Valley saying that the move was timed on the observance of the Children’s month.
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center Southern Mindanao (CRC –SMR) expressed disgust over the move of Compostela Valley Provincial Prosecutor Graciano Arafol Jr. to dismiss the complaints of the family of the slain Roque Antivo, 8, against the soldiers who were seen by a family member in the area just shortly after the shooting on April 3 this year.
“What more does the prosecutor want to convince there was murder?,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the CRC –SMR.
On September 17, Arafol dropped the complaints against Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Borjal, commanding officer of the Army’s 71st infantry Battalion, and another officer, for the murder of Antivo. The document was received only on October 21 by the family lawyer, Attorney Manuel Quibod.
Arafol said that “the fact of killing the victim by the respondents herein is not sufficiently established.”
Antivo’s parents had claimed that it was soldiers who fired on Roque and his elder brother on the night of April 3 “while the kids were walking home” from their farm in Crossing Kidaraan, Brgy. Anitapan, Mabini, Compostela Valley.
In a complaint, Roque’s stepfather Sonny Cortes said he and Roque’s brother saw soldiers of the 71st IB on the scene where the incident happened.
Cortes said a certain Second Lieutenant Felipe Llorca, who he said he met earlier in his village, was with the soldiers who claimed they were firing at communist guerillas in the hills.
But Arafol said that “from the evidence submitted (by the 71st IB), it Is safe to conclude that an encountered (sic) between the troop lead by Lt. Llorca and the splinter group of the NPA transpired. Thus, such unfortunate death and the injuries inflicted are sorrowful results of the same.”
In the resolution, Arafol cited counter-affidavits issued by Borja and other officials that the death of Roque “resulted from an encounter between splinter group F2 and platoon headed by 2nd Lt. Felipe Llorca in the vicinity of South Kidaraan.”
The soldier’s counter-affidavit also claimed that Lt. Llorca’s unit was pursuing some 30 NPA members and that another military unit encountered them in another Barangay called Libodon.
But Valle also claimed that his group conducted a fact-finding mission after the killing and he said the data collected belied the soldiers’ claim that there was an encounter.
“Roque’s parents and neighbors all said there was no gunfight or NPAs in the vicinity on that day,” Valle said.
Valle further said that villagers dismissed as impossible that soldiers were pursuing NPAs toward Barangay Libodon. Valle said that Libodon was 20 kilometers away, which could not be crossed in a few hours.
“Are authorities really that insensitive to children’s rights, that children can become collateral damage to military offensives?” Valle asked.
The group said they were wary about Arafol’s resolution pointing out that he was the same prosecutor who dropped charges against the military in other cases involving children such as the killing of Grecil Buya, 9, in a remote village in New Bataan, and Sunshine Jabinez, 7, in a remote village in Pantukan.
But CRC said the family’s lawyer of Free Legal Assistance Group would be filing a motion for reconsideration to reverse the case. (Tyrone A. Velez, davaotoday.com)
(Read Davao Today’s story on Roque Antivo here )Children's Rehabilitation Center, children's rights, Extrajudicial Killings, Roque Antivo, violence against women and children