Remains of tribal leader slain by NPA found in Davao Norte

A joint army and police team tasked to discover burial grounds of New People’s Army (NPA) victims scored their first find in a mass grave in this town.

Dubbed “Oplan Lakbay-Hukay,” the team is composed of forensics specialists who travel to suspected burial grounds where the NPA is believed to have disposed victims of atrocities.

On Monday, the team said it found the skeletal remains of one of the victims of NPA’s summary execution in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil here, believed to be that of Datu Ulas Salngani.

The team said five other graves of tribal leaders killed by the NPA here will be exhumed in the coming days.

Chief Superintendent Marcelo Morales, Police Regional Office-11 (PRO-12) director, said Salangani’s remains were identified by his brother, Datu Alambe Salangani.

During a press conference here following the exhumation of Salangani’s remains, Morales said a bone was taken by the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) for confirmation through DNA testing.

Chief Inspector Jason Baria, PRO-11 spokesperson, said the first discovered grave is five kilometers from the nearest military detachment and reachable only by foot and motorcycle.

According to Salangani’s relatives, the NPA stabbed the tribal leader then riddled his body with bullets one night in September 2015 while he was going home from a community activity.

Salangani’s remains were wrapped before he was buried in the family’s graveyard.

Charges eyed

Morales said that the evidence collected from the town’s six mass graves will be used to charge NPA members who took part in the killings.

The evidence will also be presented to the international community to show the human rights violations committed by the NPA–the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The CPP-NPA is listed as terrorist organizations by the United States and the European Union.

Morales also vowed to widen the scope “Oplan Lakbay-Hukay” in the region to unearth more remains of NPA victims. The potential areas for diggings, he said, are identified through witnesses and testimonies of former communist rebels.

He pointed out that the recovery of the remains will not only give justice to victims of NPA atrocities, but also put closure among their loved ones.

“Even until now a number of them (relatives) still yearned for justice to be served and the punishment of perpetrators,” he said.

Morales hoped that together with the AFP and tribal communities, more remains will be found and given decent burial.

Morales said “Oplan Lakbay-Hukay” aims to investigate at least NPA 17 atrocities, including killings of the Indigenous People’s leaders and members.

He said these atrocities include the June 25, 1989 massacre in the village of Rano, Barangay Binaton, Digos, Davao del Sur, where 39 churchgoers were massacred by armed men believed to NPA members; the murder of Talaingod mayor Jose Libayao in September 2001; and the killings of many other members of the cultural communities from 1983 to 2017. (Lilian C Mellejor/PNA)