DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Lumad school volunteer teacher Chad Booc sustained very serious injuries from multiple gunshot wounds which shows intent to kill, a preliminary autopsy report said, casting doubts on the military’s claim that Booc and four others engaged them in an encounter in Davao de Oro last February 23.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun made this report as requested by Booc’s parents, and presented this in an online press conference on March 7 in Mandaue, Cebu.
Fortun explained that the case is complex due to the numerous gunshot wounds found in the chest and abdomen of Booc, and even recovered one bullet from his chest. She added that the wounds are so near to each other making it difficult to determine the trajectory of each bullet.
Fortun said that Booc had internal hemorrhages in the chest and abdomen cavities and extensive lacerations in the lungs, diaphragm, liver, spleen, stomach, intestines, right kidney and right adrenal gland.
She cited that he also had fatal injuries like fractured ribs, thoracic vertebrae and a transected spinal cord.
The forensic autopsy, Fortun said, tries to reconstruct how Booc, fellow teacher Gelejurain Ngojo II, community health worker Elgyn Balonga and two motorcycle drivers Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon were killed in New Bataan.
But Fortun said there are limitations in her findings to determine if an encounter took place.
“One big limitation that I have (in performing the autopsy) is that part of the embalming involved the repair of the injuries. The embalmer sutured the holes that would determine the possible entry and exit of bullets,” she said.
“More information please. He was only one of five killed in an incident. All of them should undergo an investigation including a forensic autopsy,” Fortun added.
The Eastern Mindanao Command claimed that the “New Bataan 5” were killed following a series of armed clashes with the troops of 10th Infantry Division’s 1001st Brigade at Purok-8, Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro on February 24, 2022.
However, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network decry the military’s claim of an encounter as manifested in the initial observations of Jurain and Elegyn’s families on their bodies bearing multiple gunshot wounds and bruises.
Jurain’s body sustained several gunshot wounds, and a part of the skin on his stomach and right thigh had been peeled off.
Balonga’s left leg had been cut off a few inches below the knee while her right foot was cut off near the ankle. The dismembered limbs were wrapped and re-attached using packaging tape.
Blood clots had also formed on her fingertips. Based on the visible marks on her body, she was also shot on her right knee and below the right elbow. Her jaw was also visibly torn off and her nose bridge was bruised.
Save Our Schools Network Spokesperson Meg Lim pointed out there are gaps in time when Balonga was able to send her last message on February 23 arranging their trip back to Davao City from a community survey, the supposed encounter on February 24 and the press release from the Eastmincom on February 25.
Lim called for the Commission on Human Rights and other independent bodies locally, nationally and internationally to conduct a swift, impartial and thorough investigation of the New Bataan 5 massacre.
SOS lawyer Attorney Antonio La Viña also added that an independent government body should take the lead, as the place of the incident is heavily militarized and civilian investigators may risk their lives.
Booc was buried last March 5 in his hometown Cebu. He was given a tribute by SOS volunteers in Davao on March 3 which was attended by his father Napoleon.
Booc was a volunteer teacher for Alcadev in Surigao del Sur since 2016 after graduating cum laude in computer science in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
He was one of the vocal advocates for the Lumad schools using his social media accounts to raise issues on the militarization and red-tagging of Lumad schools and communities.
Last February 2021, Booc was among those arrested in Cebu City on alleged kidnapping charges on Lumad students, but the case was dismissed.
178 lumad schools were closed down by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict due to allegations of being recruitment schools for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, as reported by the SOS Network. (davaotoday.com)