BUTUAN CITY – A female New People’s Army (NPA) combatant, said to be the daughter of Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Eufemia Campos Cullamat, was killed in a 45-minute encounter with the Army’s Third Special Forces Battalion (3rd SFB) in Barangay San Isidro, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur, the military reported late Sunday afternoon.
Shot dead in the incident was 22-year-old Jevilyn Campos Cullamat, youngest daughter of the party-list solon, who was also known as Ka Reb.
According to 3rd SFBn Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer First Lt. Krisjuper Andreo J. Punsalan, the young Cullamat served as a medic for the rebel group, and belonged to the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) Platoon of Guerilla Front 19 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Regional Committee (NEMRC).
The body of Cullamat, which was positively identified by nine former NPA rebels, was immediately evacuated, and her siblings and members of the family were immediately notified prior to the release of the military report on the incident, Punsalan said.
The military also provided security and transportation assistance to the Cullamat family, and coordinated with the nearest mortuary for the proper handling of the cadaver.
Punsalan added that the gun battle also resulted in the capture of war materials, including five high-powered firearms such as three AK-47 rifles, one M14 rifle, one M653 5.56 caliber rifle, and assorted live ammunition, as well as bomb materials, tents, hammocks, and five backpacks containing other war material and subversive documents.
The NPA hideout where the encounter took place can accommodate more than 30 persons, the CMO officer said.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) put the blame on the death of the young Cullamat on exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison even as it offered its condolences to the family of the Bayan Muna partylist solon.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the pain that the family of Rep. Cullamat was feeling was no different from that of the families of soldiers who lost their kin in the five-decade long armed conflict between government forces and Communist rebels.
“The AFP deeply condoles with Congresswoman Eufemia Cullamat and her family for the demise of her youngest daughter Jevilyn Cullamat,” said Arevalo in a statement.
“We grieve deeply with the Bayan Muna representative and her family as we would for many Filipino families —including soldiers’— who have lost a father, a mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, or kin in this more than five decades of fighting,” said Arevalo.
In a separate statement, Cullamat confirmed the death of her daughter, but said she was not surprised why her daughter joined the NPA.
Cullamat, a member of the Manobo tribe, cited the injustice that indigenous peoples in the Caraga region have been suffering as the reason why some locals have been joining the NPA.
“I believe that she was fighting for a just cause but she chose a different way to stop the abuses against the lumads and other indigenous peoples,” said Cullamat.
The indigenous peoples in the Caraga region and other areas have been caught in the middle of the armed conflict between the government and the NPA for several years now. The indigenous peoples in Mindanao have been accusing the government of neglect, and said they were victims of injustice in the hands of powerful people in Mindanao who would steal their lands from them.
But for Arevalo, it was the deception of the NPA that encouraged some people, particularly the youth, to fight the government. He blamed Sison and other key leaders of the CPP-NPA for it.
“This senseless killing of and by fellow Filipinos—espoused and propagated by CTG (Communist Terrorist Group) leaders like Jose Maria Sison living luxuriously in some foreign land— should come to an end,” said Arevalo.
“We can only pray for the many youth whose lives have been wasted by Sison’s deception and lies —including that of the daughter of the Representative and other sorrowful mothers whose children have died or are now in the ranks of the NPA. There should not be another Jevilyn Cullamat; or another Congresswoman Cullamat to suffer another loss for a senseless cause,” he added.
The NPA has been fighting more than five decades of armed struggle against the government. Attempts to strike a peace deal with the group, including the release of arrested NPA leaders that include the Tiamzon couple, have failed. (With a report from Aaron Recuenco)