DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The mother of slain 15-year-old Jhun Mark Acto denounced the killing of her son by the Philippine Army and refuted that her son was a member of the New People’s Army.
“My son is not an NPA. He was a student who will enroll in Grade 9 this school year,” Marissa Acto told Davao Today.
Lieutenant Colonel Rhojun Rosales, Commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, reported that a certain Rondi Ando was killed in a firefight between the Army and the NPA in Brgy. Astorga in Sta. Cruz town, Davao del Sur on April 21.
Acto’s cadaver was recovered after the encounter with an M16 Rifle and clad in black NPA uniform, he said.
However, Acto refuted the military’s report that her son was a member of the NPA and the name of his son is not Rondi Ando but Jhun Mark Acto.
But Acto, who lives in Sitio Tombo, Barangay Old Bulatukan in Makilala town, North Cotabato, said that her son Jhun Mark was a grade 8 student of Ricardo L. Ipong National High School in Old Bulatukan, Makilala town, Cotabato.
Jhun Mark was staying at his aunt in Barangay Astorga to earn some money to be used for his schooling in June.
Acto said that at the time of the reported armed clash between the NPA rebels and government troops, her son was peeling freshly harvested coconuts, together with his cousin and uncle.
She belied the Army’s report saying on the day that her son was killed, he was wearing short pants.
Acto said according to her relatives, it was after lunch on April 21 when Jhun Mark and his relatives were about to resume working on the coconuts when they heard gunshots in different directions.
The military report said firefight broke out at around noon in Sitio Bayongon between the members of NPA-Guerrilla Front 51 and a joint team of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) and 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion.
The report said an NPA leader was identified as Julito Pueblas, alias Taghoy, said to be the head of the Sentro de Grabidad of the NPA-Guerrilla Front 51 was killed.
They recovered an M16 rifle, four improvised explosive devices, two rifle grenades, ammunition, two-way radios, seven backpacks, revolutionary flags, medical supplies and personal belongings.
They also captured another alleged NPA member, Jessa Lumana, who is now detained at the Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Station.
Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save our Schools Network condemned the Army attack that killed Jhun Mark.
“We strongly condemn the brutal killing of Jhun Mark. The military even orchestrated the incident to make him appear to be a child soldier, which is nothing new as this was what happened to 9-year-old Grecil Buya in 2007 when the Army claimed that Buya aimed a rifle at them,” Valle said.
Acto told Davao Today that several non-uniformed (military) men approached her to convince her that her son was an NPA member.
“They even tried to give me money,” Acto said.
She added that, “at the funeral parlor in Makilala, there are many of them who want me to keep quiet and accept that my son was killed in a combat because he was an NPA. But I refuse to do this because it was really untrue.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Joy Mirasol of human rights group Kaparatan-North Cotabato said around 150 families were displaced following the incident.
The evacuees, who came from the four villages of Bayungon, Satkom, Tabison and Kabaytan in Barangay Astorga, Cruz Davao del Sur, are now staying in Cagas Village Sitio Karubang and in Federico Yap High School in Barangay Astorga. (davaotoday.com)