DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Chad Booc, Gelejurain Ngujo II were part of a team doing field research on the situation of the Lumad schools before they and three others who assisted them were killed by the military.
This was the statement of the Save Our Schools Network Cebu, which condemned the military claim that the Lumad school volunteer teachers and three others including a community health worker and motorcycle drivers are members of the New People’s Army whom the military encountered.
SOS Cebu spokesperson Meg Lim said in a media interview that the teachers went to Davao de Oro to do a survey and environment scanning of Lumad schools that were closed in Davao province.
Lim said the aim of the research was in preparation of the reopening of schools.
She added that they were set to leave the area and head to Davao City on February 23.
Elgyn Balonga, a community health worker who volunteered for the Lumad evacuees, was able to send a text message to her family asking them to fetch them.
That was the last contact from the survey team, the SOS said.
SOS refuted the statements from the military that Booc and others are New People’s Army members who engaged them in a firefight.
“Information from locals confirms that there was no encounter that took place,” their statement said.
When asked during an interview why Booc and Ngujo were sent to those areas, Lim said the two volunteered as it was their task as teachers.
“No one else would be more qualified,” said Lim. “Jurain comes from Mindanao, Chad also taught in a Lumad school. There’s nothing out of the ordinary for them to conduct the survey as they are educators themselves. They are part of the Lumad schools.”
She added that the network intends to raise the issue of the Lumad schools in anticipation of a new administration after the 2022 elections.
Some 178 Lumad schools in Mindanao have been shut down in the past years after the NTF-ELCAC red-tagged these schools.
Lim said it is hard to believe the military’s claims that Booc and company are NPA fighters.
“It’s impossible for these three to bring guns or know how to fire them. First and foremost, what are their trainings? Chad and were trained to teach. They’re educators. Elgyn is a community health worker. If ever they have weapons, that would be the knowledge they will impart to children. For Elgyn that weapon will be her stethoscope,” said Lim.
In the SOS statement, they said Booc is a UP Diliman graduate in computer science who has volunteered for the ALCADEV in Surigao del Sur since 2016.
Ngujo graduated from Liceo de Davao in Tagum in secondary education and taught in the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM).
Balonga is a community health worker who volunteered for the for the UCCP Haran sanctuary in Davao and facilitated medical students in their internship program in Haran.
The group also identified the two drivers, Robert Aragon and Tirso Añar.
The group criticized the military and the NTF-ELCAC for branding the victims, which the group calls the New Bataan 5, as NPA fighters.
The group demands a probe on the circumstances of the deaths of the New Bataan 5.
The bodies are all claimed by their respective families in the past two days. The SOS said the bodies all bear wounds and bruises.
The group said the Booc family, who comes from Cebu, wants an autopsy conducted on Chad to determine the circumstance of his killing.
SOS also reported that the family of Ngojo noticed they were tailed by a vehicle while they brought his body back to North Cotabato on March 2. (davaotoday.com)