MANILA—The Philippine military said Tuesday said it will present former communist rebels who will prove that 5 people killed in New Bataan, Davao de Oro were members of the New People's Army.
Armed Forces spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala said the military will cooperate should there be an investigation in the clash that led to the deaths of 5 alleged communist rebels, including Lumad volunteer teacher Chad Booc.
"We are open to any investigation. What happened was an encounter between the New People's Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. So, we are firm with that," he told ANC's "Rundown".
"Now they want do an investigation. We are open to it so we could see what really happened. So, they could see that Chad Booc was a member of the New People's Army," he added.
Booc, a fellow Lumad teacher, health worker and 2 drivers were killed during the alleged clash between members of 1001st Infantry Brigade and alleged NPA fighters on Feb. 24.
The lawyer of Booc family had said the victims were noncombatants.
An autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun showed the victims were shot with an intent to kill. "Even if [Booc] had been attended to, he would not survive. It was a homicide," said Fortun.
Booc suffered multiple gunshot wounds and abrasions. His spleen was also lacerated along with other major parts of the body, such as the adrenal gland and spinal cord.
In the interview, Zagala reiterated that Booc was an "NPA armed fighter".
"This is a legitimate encounter. Booc is an armed combatant. He is a legitimate target for a military operation. He was killed or he could have killed soldiers himself because he was armed," he said.
Former NPA members who have surrendered to the government also identified Booc as part of the communist armed group, Zagala said.
“We would like to put into light also several other witnesses who have surrendered to the government and identified Chad Booc as a member of the New People’s Army, and he was seen last 2010 with CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) leaders in the area. So, what does that tell you? That he is part of the New People’s Army," he added.
The sighting of Booc, together with NPA member Leo Lacumbo, in December 2021 also solidifies that claim, Zagala said.
Booc also used the nom de guerre Ka Tibay in the NPA, he added.
"In the next few days, the 10th Infantry Division will come out with new surrenderees linking him to the organization," Zagala said.