State security forces figured in an armed encounter with suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Davao de Oro on Thursday, Feb. 24, killing an alleged volunteer teacher for indigenous people (IP) and four others who were tagged as communist rebels.
The slain suspects were identified as Chad Booc alias “Chad,” said to be a volunteer teacher for IP schools in Mindanao; Jojarain Alce Nguho II alias “Rain;” an alias “Daday;” and two unidentified men.
Booc was a known activist who used social media to reveal alleged militarization of Lumad (indigenous people) communities. He was allegedly affiliated with IP schools such as Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (ALCADEV), Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI), Salugpungan, and Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao, Inc. (CTCSM) – all based in Mindanao.
According to the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), Booc and his alleged cohorts were killed after a firefight with members of the 1001st Infantry Brigade in Purok-8, Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro.
The suspects were believed to be operating under the command of Eric Jun Casilao alias “Wally” or “Ellan,” brother of former ANAKPAWIS Rep. Ariel Casilao and alleged leader of the Regional Headquarters - Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (RHQ,SMRC); and one Leo Lacumbo alias “Ole,” alleged leader of the Regional Operations Command, SMRC (ROC, SMRC).
Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said the troops were conducting security operations when they figured in a series of encounters with the suspects. The gunbattle lasted for 15 minutes.
After the firefight, the cohorts of the suspects “withdrew southwards” and left their slain comrades, according to Durante. Seized from the killed suspects were an M653 rifle, a caliber .45 pistol, a hand grenade, an anti-personnel mine, assorted food supplies, and personal belongings.
“These recent armed encounters of the 1001st Brigade against the CTG were an offshoot of the relentless focused military operations launched since October last year to track and finish the CTG and eventually free the communities from their terroristic activities,” Durante said.
He said the death of Booc “proved that the so-called Lumad schools like ALCADEV, MISFI, Salugpungan, CTCSM, and others are indeed breeding grounds of the CTG.”
“It is in these institutions where innocent IP children are being radicalized and influenced to take arms against the government. We call on to the parents whose children are still with these institutions to take action. Rescue your children immediately before it’s too late. Seek help from the authorities so that we can eventually rescue them,” Durante added.
Booc graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman with a degree of Bachelor of Computer Science.
“He was a known activist and recruiter to the CTG even in his UP days,” the 10th Infantry Division said.
He was also involved in Manilakbayan, a protest march organized by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-linked IP groups from Mindanao in 2015, the 10th ID added.
After his college days, Booc volunteered as a Mathematics teacher in the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and later on volunteered for bakwit (internally displaced persons) schools in Cebu.
“These CPP-NPA affiliated schools including Salugpungan Schools in Davao Region were all closed down by the government,” the 10th ID noted.
On Feb. 15, 2015, Booc was arrested by government troops in a bakwit school in Cebu along with six others for allegedly trafficking IPs from Talaingod, Davao del Norte. He was eventually released after the cases filed against them were dismissed by the court.
Meanwhile, Nguho graduated from Liceo de Tagum and went on to be a volunteer teacher at CTCSM in Barangay Lapu-lapu, Maco, Davao de Oro. He was described by the 10th ID as a “CTG scholar.”
Major Gen. Nolasco Mempin, commander of the 10th ID, extended his condolences to the families of the slain suspects although he insisted that “this would not happened if they opted to lay down their arms and abandon the armed struggle.”
“We have warned them multiple times to peacefully surrender to the government, however, they chose to resist to continue the bloodshed that resulted to their demise. Together with their former comrades, we again urge the remaining members of the CTG to return to the folds of the law,” Mempin stated.