February 28, 2022
“Blame AFP for my death”—Lumad school volunteer teacher Chad Booc began in a long Facebook post dated December 27, 2017. In the said post, he narrated in full detail how he was being coerced and harassed by local police officers to surrender as a rebel. Five years later, on February 24, 2022, he was murdered along with four others in New Bataan, Davao de Oro by military troops. The victims are now collectively known as the ‘New Bataan 5’ which includes Gelejurain Ngujo II or ‘Jurain’, another volunteer teacher and Elgyn Balonga, a health worker.
The 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said that a clash took place between Booc’s group and the state forces but the Save Our Schools Network refuted this and asserted that it was a massacre. The Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) also clarified via Twitter that there was no encounter between the New People’s Army troops and the military in the area.
“Chad Booc’s death proved once more that the government forces continue to blur the difference between combatants and non-combatants, or activists and armed rebels. They try to belie their violations to justify it even though it is clearly impossible,” Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) spokesperson Liza Maza said.
Aside from local reports from Brgy. Andap, New Bataan cited by Save Our Schools Network Cebu which denied an encounter that took place in the area, Chad Booc’s social media accounts were recently active.
Maza said that the spate of rights violations committed against activists, development workers, and rights defenders makes the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front urgent more than ever.
“The issue of armed conflict should be given utmost attention by the next administration and ensure that it does not adopt the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) model which disregards the roots of war,” Maza added.
Lorraine Badoy, one of ELCAC’s most rabid talking heads received massive ire online after her post celebrating Booc’s death. This enraged the latter’s colleagues and friends and many other activists from different political convictions. Maza said that Badoy only shows the true nature of the government’s agency which will never be for peace.
Before Booc’s death, Dr. Natividad ‘Naty’ Castro, a health worker who assisted Lumad community health centers in Mindanao was arrested and accused of being a “high-ranking” CPP official.
Maza said that it is shameful that selfless people like Chad and Doc Naty—“people who whole-heartedly devoted their work to marginalized communities in hopes for helping their development”—are being subjected to violations by the military.
“It is worrying that ‘volunteering’ for the poor has become a crime in the eyes of the government. Therefore, to start the peace negotiations again is a must so that the causes of armed conflict which produces self-less activists and advocates and likewise push others to take up arms be thoroughly scrutinized and holistically resolved. Civil society and the people’s movement must work hard to ensure that the next administration will make it a priority” Maza explained.
CPDG also pointed out that justice for victims and the accountability of rights violators can only be exacted and demanded during such negotiations between the Philippine Government and the NDF. #