By Martin Sadongdong
Slain in the 1990s by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, the skeletal remains of an alleged “datu,” or a ruler of indigenous people (IP), and his wife have been discovered by government forces and given decent burial, the Philippine National Police (PNP) shared on Sunday.
Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., PNP spokesperson, shared to reporters a video clip of the Caraga Police Regional Office (PRO-13)’s discovery of the remains of Datu Balaw Manhumusay Magwanta and his wife, Bae Soeing Magwanta, in the hinterlands of Barangay Lawan Lawan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte.
In the 6:10 minute-long video, Chief Superintendent Gilberto Cruz, PRO-13 regional director, was shown climbing a mountainous area as he visited the exact spot where the remains of the royal couple were exhumed on November 1, All Saints’ Day. He then led the giving of a decent burial for them in a nearby cemetery.
The remains of the royal couple, believed to have ruled the IPs in the region, were first found by troops of the Philippine Army who claimed that the victims were killed by alleged communist rebels in the 1990s.
Cruz said they have been monitoring a mass grave where reported victims of NPA atrocities were buried.
“For now, what we found are the royal couple. We paid our respects in our own little way,” he said.
“Our men found a mass grave so we will also try to identify the others for us to, at least, give our respects to them,” he added.
A mass attended by soldiers, police and civilians was held at the graves of the royal couple.
A black cross was situated on their graves as a marker.
Their tombstones were etched with words “Here lies the victims of CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines]-NPA atrocities.”
It was not stated how the remains were identified but the Caraga police said Cruz has talked to the remaining families and relatives of the royal couple.
Caraga police said the royal couple’s relatives finally expressed relief after the remains were transferred to a cemetery and given proper burial.
Cruz also gave a brief lecture to local residents about the dangers of joining communist rebels in the region.
“The death of our IPs is a blatant human rights violation committed by the terrorists who masquerade as pro-life and pro-people. The masses shall be awakened to the reality that under the CNTs [CPP-NPA terrorists], there is no justice system or rule of law,” Cruz said.
On the other hand, Cruz appealed to the rebels to give up their arms and become beneficiaries of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).