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Carnival blast victims stage rally vs Philippine rebels

DAVAO CITY -- Victims of the latest grenade attack in a remote village here, including their relatives and supporters, staged an indignation rally in front of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church in this city Thursday morning.
Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson for the 10th Infantry Division, said the protesters also included victims of the atrocities of the Maoist New Peoples' Army (NPA) from different areas in Mindanao.

"Relatives and supporters of the slain tribal chieftains in North Cotabato and Marilog district in Davao City were also among those who participated in the indignation rally," Paniza said.

The protesters, according to reports, are against to what they called was a "measly" payment of the National Democratic Front (NDF) to each victim of the grenade blast during a fiesta in Paquibato district.

They were told that each blast victim will only receive P5,000, said Lieutenant Manuel Gatus of the Army's 57th Infantry Battalion.

They said a group, Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), is acting as a "broker" in the negotiations for payment.

The EJP, according to Paniza, is led by a certain Bishop Modesto Villasanta, who also heads an independent church based in this city.

The protesters, however, want more than that. They said the perpetrators of the attack should be charged, arrested, and placed behind bars.

"Justice may only be served when the perpetrators, from the masterminds to the grenade thrower, all within the Communist Party of the Philippines, NDF, and the New People's Army (CPP-NDF-NPA), are tried and punished before a duly-constituted court of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. The CPP-NDF-NPA must surrender to authorities the conspirators of the Paquibato Circus grenade attack so they can be fairly tried," said Arthur Tariman, lead organizer of the group.

Tariman said they also called on EJP to stop acting as broker to what they considered was a great injustice by facilitating NDF's payment of P5,000 "indemnification" to each blast victim.

Villasanta, who is also the EJP convenor, said in a phone interview that the move referred to as "The Indemnification and Humanitarian Mission for Paquibato Casualties" was conducted and facilitated by the Third Party Facilitator as requested by the NDF-SMR.

The bishop said the cash assistance will serve as reimbursement for the damages caused by the grenade blast on September 1 that wounded 50 individuals, including a two-year-old.

Villasanta said aside from the cash assistance for the victims, they were also assessed by the medical and psychosocial teams of the facilitators to check their health conditions before the indemnification will be completed.

On September 12, NDF-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rubi del Mundo said their group has already ordered the indemnification of at least 41 wounded individuals, including children, who were casualties of the Paquibato blast.

Del Mundo said the order came after a recommendation submitted to them by the Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the NPA.

"The directive is a unilateral exercise of revolutionary political authority by a government of the working class and peasantry that has its own legal and judicial system and rules in accordance with its political principles and circumstances," del Mundo said.

The order is in compliance with the NDFP Declaration of Undertaking to Apply Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I of 1977, which asserts its status as co-belligerent under international law and assumes its rights and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and its protocols, del Mundo added.

Also, it complies with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which provides for the indemnification and compensation to parties affected in the armed conflict.

Del Mundo said the Third Party Facilitator will award the compensation, but is not limited to, the following Paquibato blast victims identified as Necio Cerundo, 21; Marcelo Babor, 52; Jelson Bacordo, 22; Elizer Sumod Ong, 29; Jessie Solla, 49; Candida Sambalod, 53; Rubilyn Abayto, 34; Rolando Abatayo, 32; Randy Loyola, 35; Rio Brigole, 24; Marvin Polinar, 20; Jeresa Malinao, 19; Primitiva Dadula, 65; Lindo Linda, 18; Noe Pulbera, 52; Dario Segundo, 33; Rolando Roperos, 47; John Miguel Lucian, 23; Genelyn Cambirahan, 31; Marjorie Escultor, 34; Ruthchelle Bontoyan, 39; Rudith Montajes, 20; Gemar Bacordo, 24; Rolando Palban, 18; Marvin Sumod Ong, 53; Samson Tandoy, 18; and Helena Turado, 54.

Also included in the list were 14 minors, reports said.

The Army's 10th Infantry Division also criticized the NDF's indemnification and humanitarian mission for Paquibato grenade blast victims, saying the cash assistance is nothing but a mere propaganda.

In Thursday's military-police press conference at Task Force Davao (TFD) headquarters, Major Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commander of the 10th Infantry Division's Civil Military Operation Battalion (CMOBN), said such move of the NPA is one of its reclined tactics to introduce itself as pro-people and skip the public's wrath against them.

"Their (NDF-NPA) indemnification is nothing but an insult for the 50 victims. The cash will never pay off the trauma and fear of the victims and other residents in Paquibato. P5,000? That is only comparable to one lechon baboy and a sack of rice. And another thing, where did they get the money?" Obligado said.

Meanwhile, Senior Inspector Dionisio Escubaņez, representative of the Davao City Police Office's Investigation and Detection Management Branch, released on Thursday the cartographic sketch of one of the members of the NPA who was behind the carnival explosion last September 1.

Escubaņez described the man as 5'4 tall, medium built, dark complexion and about 20 to 30 years old.

He said they already filed charges of multiple frustrated murders before the City Prosecutor's Office against NPA leader Leoncio Pitao alias Ka Parago.