CHR clears military in Grecil’s death

Jun. 02, 2007

In a May 21 decision, the Commission on Human Rights in Southern Mindanao said Grecil Buya was killed in a crossfire, that the encounter between rebels and soldiers was legitimate, and that there was no evidence that the soldiers violated the rights of Grecil. It also said that there was no evidence to suggest that the girl was a communist guerrilla, as earlier alleged by the military.

By Angely Chi
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights in Southern Mindanao has cleared the military of allegations that it murdered Grecil Buya, the nine-year-old girl from New Bataan, Compostela Valley, who was killed on March 31 during an encounter between soldiers and members of the communist New People’s Army.

In a May 21 decision signed by CHR regional director Alberto B. Sipaco Jr., a copy of which was obtained by this week, the commission said Grecil was killed in the crossfire, that the encounter was legitimate, and that there was no evidence that the soldiers violated the rights of Grecil, whom it called a noncombatant.

Grecil, the decision said, “was caught in the crossfire,” which it said was legitimate in that soldiers and the guerrillas accidentally ran into each other in Grecil’s neighborhood in New Bataan.

The commission also disputed the claim by the military that Grecil was an NPA combatant who held a rifle and fired at the soldiers. This claim, it said, “cannot be taken as gospel truth in the face of evidence to the contrary.”

Grecil’s parents, Gregorio Galacio and Virginia Buya, earlier filed the murder complaint before the CHR against the soldiers from the 67th Infantry Battalion led by 2nd Lt. Francis John Gabawa.

But the commission’s decision is certain to raise some questions, particularly from the human-rights groups that are supporting Grecil’s family.

In its decision, the commission said that “there is only one issue to be resolved in this case, i.e. whether or not the victim 9-year-old Grecil Buya was shot by the government forces led by 2nd Lt. Francis John Gabawa.”

Yet the decision was not definitive on this issue. In fact, the decision never mentioned who, in fact, shot Grecil. In his counter-affidavit, Gabawa denied that soldiers killed Grecil and asked the commission to take into account his assertion that it was the NPAs who fired first.

In Gabawa’s counter-affidavit, he claimed that his troops only retaliated from “the first burst of gunfire” that came from the rebels and that during the fierce encounter that ensued, the “gunfire came from different directions” and therefore should not be a firm basis for judgment against his troops.

He also stated in his report summary that “the bullets that hit Grecil possibly came from the other side, not from the government forces for there was a cluster of lumber blocking or covering the place where the girl’s body was found.”

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