In her column piece for Sunday's Philippine Daily Innuendo, entitled Her Name Was Grecil Patty tells the cry-your-eyes-out story of a nine year old girl who apparently died during an encounter between government troops and a New People's Army band in Barangay Kahayag, Compostela Valley a few weeks ago and was claimed by the military to be a child-soldier of the NPA. Now, to hear Patty tell what happened last March 31, NPA rebels numbering about 30 suddenly appeared out of nowhere demanding that a local farmer and tuba-vendor, Gregorio and his family allow them to use their pots and pans to cook their breakfast. How and why they chose his particular secluded location in a mountainous region might suggest to some that they had done this before and Gregorio had let them. Later on, the farmer would claim he had no choice in the matter, noting that the men were heavily armed, and they even got the Commission on Human Rights to certify that villagers "have no choice" when the NPA comes a-calling in this manner. Ms. Evangelista takes up the story--
"It was around nine o’clock when the military arrived. Grecil’s father Gregorio says there was no warning for the civilians to take cover, just three staccato bursts of a gun and then the rapid fire of machine guns. The family ran down the mountain with the two younger children. “My wife asked me about Grecil and Dodong, I said they were safe in the river, they were bathing far away from the gunfire.” The shooting between military and NPA lasted two hours. Gregorio’s home, now riddled with bullets, was the target.Sometime during the ensuing two hour gun-battle between the military and NPA, one soldier, one rebel, and one child died. The way she tells it of course, Ms. Evangelista clearly sides with the NPA against the government, and uses the tragedy of the child and her parents to accuse the authorities of carelessness or injustice in pursuing the communist terrorists.
Gregorio left his wife and children with his mother-in-law in the village. He was on the way to find Grecil and Dodong when his son caught up with him. He asked the boy where his sister was; Dodong said she was right behind him when they heard shots. When he looked back again, she was gone. In an affidavit, witness Lorena Seguido said Grecil had run back to the house in the midst of the shooting.
No one was allowed up the mountain. Conflicting stories filtered down to the family. Three children were killed. One child was killed. Grecil was carrying a gun. Grecil was dead.
Gregorio was told to stay in the barangay hall. Someone from the military would come to talk to him. He waited until two o’clock, until he saw a minicab pass by, guarded by two APCs loaded with soldiers. There was a body in the minicab.
The next time Gregorio saw his daughter, it was in the PNP headquarters. Grecil’s godfather, the barangay captain, had carried her down from the mountain. In an affidavit, Barangay Captain Eulogio Bigno Almasa stated he, with others, had gone up to Purok 6 to assist the populace after they heard the gunfire. At the encounter site, they saw the dead girl lying on the ground. The back of Grecil’s head had been blasted off. Almasa claims no firearms were found near the body. The military watched as Gregorio cried and cursed.
The version of events that we get above from Ms. Evangelista clearly favors the NPA in a manner often used by its media supporters--argumentum ad miserecordiam--but there are some puzzling and suggestive details that survive even the sympathetic filtering of Ms. Evangelista and her rendition of events. Only the naive can accept her suggestion that Gregorio and his family did not know their NPA visitors, never had anything to do with them before and had no choice in their arrival and use of kitchen and dining facilities. I found it curious that someone even bothered to get a certification from the Commission on Human Rights claiming that Gregorio and his family had not choice but to allow the NPA into their homes and allow them to eat and rest there. It makes me wonder why the barangay captain was even pressed for a statement saying he was "100% certain" that the family involved was not with the NPA themselves. It suggests that there is sensitivity to previous admissions of the NPA in that area that it has used minor age children for "non-combat operations as couriers and messengers." The report by the engaging military units that children were seen carrying firearms does not mean they were using those firearms but were possibly forced by the NPA to help secure and hide them from the pursuing army troops.
Why should the NPA care if innocents, or not-so-innocent civilians and minors are killed in the crossfire of their long running insurgency? After all such tragedies can always be blamed on the government by its "child-soldiers in the Media," like Patty Evangelista, who are prepared to take their side, lawyer for them with all sorts of fallacious arguments and stories taken out of context. Such writers and their bleeding hearts are tailor-made for the CPP-NPA's kind of propaganda war--the kind that trades on our automatic sympathy for human misery and poverty in order to slyly offer a rationalization for the CPP-NPA's organized crimes of terrorist assassination, kidnap-for-ransom, insurgent violence, threat-by-arms, extortion and mayhem.
The US State Department's 2006 Annual Country Report on the Use of Children Soldiers around the world contains the following information on the Philippines:
Children were targeted for recruitment as combatants and noncombatants by the NPA [New People’s Army] and ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group]. There were an estimated two thousand child soldiers in the country. By mid-year an International Labor Organization (ILO)-led program demobilized and reintegrated into society three hundred children. The NPA claimed that it assigned persons 15 to 18 years of age to self-defense and noncombatant duties; however, there were reports that the NPA continued to use minors in combat. In a July 2004 report the Council for Welfare of Children estimated that children constituted between 13 to 18 percent of armed rebel combatants. In the last several years, the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] on numerous occasions captured or killed NPA fighters who turned out to be minors. The ASG also recruited teenagers to fight and participate in its activities. There were reports that a significant number of ASG members staffing the groups' camps were teenagers. The AFP stated that some Islamic schools in Mindanao served as fronts to indoctrinate children and that the ASG used children as couriers and spies.