Joven Ceralvo: The rebel leader ‘twice killed’ by military?

Published December 6, 2021, 8:24 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

The recent encounter between the Philippine Army (PA) and New People’s Army (NPA) in Miag-ao, Iloilo caused quite a stir online because of one of the nine alleged communist guerillas who died in the incident – a man who had been reportedly killed two years ago.

A news release from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) last Saturday, Dec. 4, said that among those killed in the December 1 shootout in Barangay Alimodias was Joven Ceralvo alias “Lex,” the highest ranking New People’s Army (NPA) officer in Iloilo.

Joven Ceralvo (Photo: 3rd Infantry Division)

Ceralvo, according to the Capiz-based military unit, was the second deputy secretary of the Southern Front of Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay (SF KR-P), and commanding officer of the Front Operational Command of the SF KR-P.

But a 2019 news report from a major broadsheet surfaced recently as netizens pointed out that a certain Joven Ceralvo alias “Lex” had also been killed in a previous encounter in Barangay Alimodias, Miag-ao, Iloilo on March 24, 2019.

“I think it’s a mix up [on the part] of the writer, not us. We are not the ones wrong here,” Major Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 3ID commanding officer, told reporters Sunday night, Dec. 5, when sought for a comment.

According to Arevalo, they were certain that the man killed in the 2021 encounter was the actual Ceralvo as he was identified by the Philippine National Police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (PNP-SOCO).

He said a body part of Ceralvo was recovered by the troops during the clearing operations and later examined by the PNP SOCO which eventually led to his identification.

“He was hit by one of our [artilleries]. [It was] very gruesome but part of the body was recovered. We are 100 percent sure that he died in the [2021] encounter,” Arevalo said.

So who was the rebel leader killed in the 2019 report?

Arevalo said he communicated with the commander directly involved in the 2019 encounter, Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot Jr., to clarify the erroneous report.

Magbalot, according to Arevalo, said that the NPA leader killed in the 2019 encounter had been identified as Leonardo Seterra alias “Abel,” a sub-leader of the SF KR-P under the direct command of Ceralvo.

“Colonel Magbalot knows [Ceralvo] very well because he had long been running after him,” Arevalo said.

“[Seterra] was like a subleader, a squad leader or platoon leader under Ceralvo. So when it was reported back then that a leader had been killed, I think the writer mixed it up to say that it was Ceralvo,” he continued.

“But Colonel Magbalot was never quoted as saying that Ceralvo died in 2019. He had said that an NPA leader died but he did not identify him as Ceralvo,” Arevalo noted.