Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Monday said they strongly condemn the military’s alleged “desecration” of the remains of Jevilyn Cullamat, daughter of their colleague Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat.
“The military blatantly violated International Law (IHL) by desecrating the remains of Jevilyn, circulating photos of her obviously artificially posed body as though she were still carrying a rifle, and with troops displaying her corpse alongside captured paraphernalia,” the lawmakers said in a statement on November 30.
“The soldiers did not only disrespect her remains but even used it like a trophy for propaganda purposes,” they added.
Cullamat, 22, was killed in an armed encounter between the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion and suspected New People’s Army rebels in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur on Saturday, according to a military report released Sunday.
Photos of Rep. Cullamat’s youngest daughter, lifeless but still clutching a rifle, were released by the military.
“Apparently, respect for human rights and dignity of the dead are not in the vocabulary of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” the Makabayan bloc said.
“We demand that all these photos be immediately withdrawn from government websites and those responsible for circulating them be held accountable,” they appealed.
In a separate statement, Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro also slammed the military for circulating Jevilyn’s photos.
“Sagad-sagarang kahayupan at halang bituka ng mga militar na nagmamalaking tropeyo nila ang mga labi ni Jevilyn. Binaboy at ginawan pa ng kwento ang patay na katawan ni Jevilyn na hawak ang baril sa mga larawang nilabas na ngayo’y kumakalat sa social media (They have disrespected and maligned Jevilyn by releasing and allowing the photos to circulate on social media),” Castro said.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said: “Only psychopaths and terrorists are capable of taking photo opportunities with a dead body.”
“Making a war souvenir out of the remains of an alleged armed combatant is not only a violation of international humanitarian laws but a manifestation of the military’s lack of basic human decency,” she added.
The Kabataan Partylist also denounced the AFP for boasting Jevilyn’s remains “like a trophy.”
“Ipinaalala namin sa mga militar na walang lugar at hindi katanggap-tanggap ang paglapastangan sa mga labi ng kahit na sino man, kahit pa isang rebelde (We remind the military that there is no place, and it is unacceptable to disrespect anyone’s remains, even if they are rebels),” the group, represented by Cong. Sarah Elago, said.
The Makabayan bloc expressed their condolences to Rep. Cullamat.
They called on the AFP, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, as well as the media, to respect the bereaved family and not use Jevilyn’s death in the propaganda and “red-tagging” of progressive groups.
They also reiterated their appeal for the resumption of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to tackle and address the root causes of the armed conflict.
“We call on the government to tackle lasting solutions to poverty, massive landlessness, agricultural backwardness, record high unemployment, and the lack of basic national industries,” Brosas said.
Rep. Cullamat had earlier admitted that she would not be surprised if her youngest daughter had joined the NPA, citing the alleged abuses and the poverty that the Lumads have suffered.