“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.” – Lucretius
NEW YORK CITY – We wouldn’t venture to speculate what exactly happened pre-dawn on August 15, 2018 at Barangay Atabay, San Jose, Antique when members of the Antique Provincial Mobile Force, 301st Brigade, San Jose PNP, 61st Infantry Battalion swooped down on an abandoned church and killed seven suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed the seven: Jayson Talibu, Jason Sanchez, Karen Ceralvo, Ildefenso Labinghisa, Peter Mecenas, Liezl Bandiola and Felix Salditos engaged the the joint PNP-AFP teams in a firefight while they were serving a warrant of arrest.
In this version, the seven were killed in an encounter.
Since no one among the bodies lined up and presented to media hours after the “encounter” had survived and no other “rebels” were captured alive, nobody can dispute the PNP-AFP version of a firefight.
Dead men tell no tales.
On the other hand, nobody can tell or corroborate if the government forces had also suffered casualties.
An encounter or firefight means both sides fired gunshots to and from various directions.
A thirty-minute (that’s the police version in their report) gun battle would have been messy, bloody and confusing.
There would have been stray bullets hitting the houses nearby or civilians caught in the middle of the deadly violence which happened when everyone in that village was already sleeping.
Police and military officials neither confirmed nor denied some of their men were also hit and wounded.
Media were just informed an “encounter” happened and the enemies were unlucky as shown by the body count.
Since human right groups and families of the dead, now known as “Antique 7”, are claiming otherwise and have moved to file a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), some people are getting curious and confused.
They want a clearer picture of what exactly had happened.
Families and supporters of “Antique 7” insisted their loved ones were victims of a massacre.
They threw away to the dustbin the PNP-AFP version of encounter.
Ruth Salditos, Felix’s wife, claimed the victims suffered almost the same “fatal” gunshot wounds on the head, neck and stomach and appeared to be “sleeping” when attacked.
The National Democratic Front (NDF), which admitted the “Antique 7” were its members, claimed the seven were unarmed and were “cultural and educational warriors and were non-combatants.”
The PNP, particularly the Regional Police Office-6 (PRO-6) led by Director John Bulalacao, accused the seven of engaging in extortion activities.
Some of the items seized in the vicinity after the “encounter” were reportedly extortion letters and several high-powered firearms, ammunition, grenades and cash.
Human rights group Karapatan-Panay and families of slain communist rebels and Bulalacao have been swapping heated accusations in media.
The word war is expected to escalate as the families and other cause-oriented groups demand justice for the killing of the “Antique 7” while the PNP and the AFP stand by their claim of a “legitimate encounter” and appeared unperturbed.
Massacre or encounter, we have one description of what happened to the “Antique 7”: trapped.