Grecil Buya was a lively girl who liked to play with spiders and thought TV noontime show host Willie Revillame was a great artist. She excelled in school, finishing Grade Two with honors and with the award “Most Neat and Clean.” She took on chores, like minding the carabao. On March 31, the nine-year-old girl was killed by soldiers during an encounter with the New People’s Army. The soldiers claimed the nine-year-old girl aimed an Armalite rifle at them, forcing them to shoot her. Family and friends were saddened by Grecil’s death but are outraged at the allegation that she was a communist guerrilla.
By Grace S. Uddin
KAHAYAG, Compostela Valley — As far as military officials are concerned, Grecil Buya, a nine-year-old girl, was a Communist who used her M-16 Armalite rifle against soldiers engaged in a firefight with New People’s Army guerrillas in this hinterland village on March 31.
According to General Carlos Holganza, the commander of the army’s 101st Brigade whose men killed Grecil, there were indications from his men that the girl was a member of the NPA team the soldiers fought with that day. In a complaint against the NPA filed by some of the soldiers, they claimed seeing the girl holding a gun and turning it at them. That was why, they said, they were forced to fire at her.
“There are only two things to consider,” Holganza said in a phone interview with davaotoday.com, “either she was carrying the rifle herself or she was told to carry it.”
Although Holganza said they would investigate the incident, it would seem that, at this point, the military doesn’t care much for the truth, whatever it may be: it has used Grecil in its propaganda campaign against the NPA, claiming that Grecil was proof of the communists’ continuing recruitment of children and minors — a charge that the NPA has always denied.
“The death of the child-warrior clearly indicates the NPA’s continuing program to recruit minors as their combatants,” Captain Jose Francis dela Fuente, a spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID) based in Western Samar, was quoted in several reports as saying. The military initially reported that Grecil was 12 years old.
But in interviews with davaotoday.com last week, relatives, friends and local officials insist that Grecil was never an NPA guerrilla.
“I can testify that Grecil was not an NPA. Why? Because I was her godfather during her christening. I can witness that the child goes to school every day, has an ID and other school documents that will prove that she was a student,” said Eulogio Almasa, this village’s barangay captain. “I am 100 percent sure that she was not an NPA.”
Riza, 10, a schoolmate of Grecil’s who attended her wake, said Grecil could have received two ribbons during the graduation ceremonies last March 27 of the Simsimen Elementary School. “Her ribbons were ‘Most Neat and Clean’ and ‘With Honors’,” Riza said. Unfortunately, those ribbons were never pinned on Grecil because she and her mother missed the ceremonies. Three days later, should would be dead.
Grecil performed well in school but there were times that she was distracted by too much playing. Her mother, Pacita Buya, was forced to stop Grecil from attending school last year because the girl was hooked on playing, particularly spider-fighting, rather than attending classes. But, according to Pacita, she made good this year. “She wanted to be a nurse,” she said.
Grecil, according to Pacita, likes dancing and singing and was fun to be with. She watched the noontime show “Wowowee” all the time and thought the show’s host, Willie Revillame, was a great artist. She would belt out such songs as “Luha” by Aegis and the song “Hawak-Kamay” by Yeng Constantino.
Grecil was the eldest of the four children of Pacita, 38, and Gregorio Galacio, 30. (The couple never married, which was why Grecil used her mother’s surname.) The family lived in a small hut in Purok 6, in barangay Kahayag. Gregorio is a tuba (coconut wine) gatherer and Pacita grows vegetables in upland areas of the village.
Grecil would have turned 10 in October. They called her “Inday,” a responsible elder sister despite her constant playing that often made her neglect her household chores. “She took care of the carabao whenever she didn’t have class,” said Candido Buya, 64, Grecil’s grandfather. Candido was at the farm when he heard the gunshots that morning.