“Our tribal chieftain arrived and confirmed that Totong was killed because he was mistaken for an NPA guide. He said they believed him to be in the company of seven other men and was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun” – Manuel Mabinsi, victim’s brother
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — “My brother did no fault against the government. He was a barangay police, a public servant,” said Manuel Mabinsi as he calls for justice over the death of his brother Totong Mabinsi.
On July 22, Totong’s lifeless body was found in Kibuntayon River in the village of Datu Davao, Laak town in Compostela Valley Province.
Lina, his wife, said Totong just went out to hunt for wild boars on that day not knowing it would be the last time she would see her husband.
She said he left for Sitio Dose Media, after breakfast, a place two kilometers away from their house in Sitio Onse, Purok 2, which is a common hunting ground of the community.
“Hunting is our livelihood. We sell his catch to buy rice and other needs,” says Lina.
“When I heard gunshots, I got nervous. My chest tightened. I feared for my husband,” Lina said, adding that the incident caused her a miscarriage. “I bled heavily after that.” She was pregnant with their fifth child.
Meanwhile, Manuel had no idea that his brother Totong went out for hunting. That’s why, he said, he didn’t worry when he heard the gunshots.
News immediately reached him that someone who acted as an NPA guide got killed and that soldiers had asked for people to transport the body.
“Our tribal chieftain arrived and confirmed that Totong was killed because he was mistaken for an NPA guide. He said they believed him to be in the company of seven other men and was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun,” Manuel narrated.
But Lina said her husband was only carrying a surit-surit, a homemade gun which uses the head of matches as igniter and pellets for bullets.
In a text message to davaotoday.com last night, Major Jake Obligado, head of the 10th Civil-Military Operations Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division, said he had yet to contact the 60th Infantry Battalion’s unit commander.
In a statement released today, however, Obligado said that on July 22, the Peace and Development Teams of 60th IB’s Charlie Company were conducting Peace and Development Outreach Program and encountered about 10 elements of Communist guerillas.
He added, the firefight lasted for about 10 minutes after which, the NPAs left behind “their dead member,” whom the military later identified as Totong Mabinsi.
The AFP did not identify Totong as a “guide” but an NPA member.
Disbelief engulfed Manuel as he lamented the death of his brother. “He was even part of constructing the soldiers’ detachment and fetched wood for their fences, yet they killed him,” he told davaotoday.com.
Totong was an active member of the village police under the Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO).
In their village, officials were made to sign a certification confirming that there was indeed an encounter between NPAs and soldiers that led to the death of Totong.
At the wake of his brother, six soldiers came. “They talked to me, and one of them, admitted that they killed Totong by mistake,” Manuel said.
A Cafgu trainer in the area who goes by the name “Butik,” according to Manuel, also came to ask for forgiveness for having killed Totong by mistake.
A certain Lt. Gamos, team leader of the soldiers, Manuel said, also came to talk to him. “He asked of my plans on my brother’s case. I told him that I am only concerned about Totong’s kids and the survival of his family,” Manuel said.
Manuel said, Lt. Gamos promised to provide a sack of rice every end of the month, and support Totong’s children for six years. “I did not believe him. I know it was an empty promise. They had no clue that I’ll be pursuing this case to see justice for my brother. I do not fear them,” he said.
Lina and Manuel took their case to the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Davao City. They filed separate affidavits of complaint identifying Lt. Gamos and his men as responsible for the murder of Totong.
Lawyer Panfilo Junior Lovitos, Human Rights Attorney IV of the CHR’s Protection and Monitoring Division, told davaotoday.com that the case is now under investigation, refusing to comment any further.
Pedro Arnado of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas likens the killing of Mabinsi to the Dejoses in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, and Ramon Batoy in Arakan, North Cotabato, farmers who, he said, were killed by the military on suspicion that they were aiding the NPAs.
Pastor Jurie Jaime, secretary general of the human rights alliance Karapatan, blames the death of Mabinsi on the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.
“This happened because the government’s Oplan Bayanihan does not respect the laws of war which specifically prohibits soldiers from communities,” Jaime said, adding that abuses happen when soldiers are in civilian communities.
“If they can even kill their own men like Totong who served as a CVO, how much more the ordinary folks? Anybody can become victim,” he said. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)