Communist Rebel Daughter of Philippines Congresswoman Killed in Clash

Froilan Gallardo and Marielle Lucenio - Cagayan de Oro/Manila Philippines
2020-11-30
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Communist Rebel Daughter of Philippines Congresswoman Killed in Clash Protesters display banners that show support for underground Communist movements as they march along a street in Manila, March 31, 2017.
Reuters

A Communist rebel, who was a daughter of a sitting member of Congress, was killed in an encounter with security forces over the weekend, the Philippine military said, even as it battled allegations on Monday that armed forces members desecrated the slain woman’s body.

The military said Jevilyn Campos Cullamat, 22, was a medic for the youth propaganda wing of the New People’s Army (NPA), and was killed on Saturday during a clash in the jungles of Surigao del Sur province in the southern Philippines.

“The dead NPA terrorist’s identity was confirmed by nine former rebels and the Cullamat siblings as Jevilyn Campos Cullamat alias ‘Ka Reb,’ 22 years old and youngest daughter and child of Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Campos Cullamat,” an army statement said.

The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It has been waging a rebellion in the country since 1969.

Security forced said several weapons, including automatic rifles, as well a bag that contained “subversive documents,” were found at the encounter site after the hour-long clash on Saturday.

‘Desecration’

The military released photos of troops posing with Cullamat’s corpse, and displaying insurgent flags and weapons purportedly recovered from the clash site. The faces of the troops were all blanked out, but Cullamat’s was not.

In one of the photos, she was seen holding a rifle while lying lifeless on the ground, in what appeared to be a posed fighting stance.

Congresswoman Cullamat denounced the photographs on Monday, while she confirmed that the slain woman was her daughter.

She said that her daughter joined the rebels after being frustrated at seeing many tribal communities in the south suffering, allegedly at the hands of the military and its militias, a charge the military has repeatedly denied.

“My sorrow runs deep for the death of my youngest child. I strongly denounce the desecration of my daughter’s body. She is not a thing, a trophy to be paraded as a trophy by the military,” Congresswoman Cullamat said in a statement.

“You did not respect the dead and our grieving family.”

Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo on Monday said the photograph of the slain Cullamat was taken for documentary purposes and denied that her body was used as a trophy.

He said the soldiers did not know the identity of the slain female guerrilla and only found out much later that she was the congresswoman’s daughter.

“It was not meant to scoff at the dead or demean the remains whose identity is not known to the soldiers,” Arevalo said.

The AFP expressed condolences to Cullamat’s family but said that family members should direct their anger at CPP founder Jose Maria Sison who has lived in exile in Europe for more than three decades.

“We reach out to those who continue to fight for or advocate for this meaningless battle. There should not be another Jevilyn Cullamat, or another Congresswoman Cullamat to suffer another loss for a senseless cause,” AFP spokesman Arevalo said.

Two other rebels slain

Separately, two other prominent but “retired” members of the CPP were killed last Wednesday in a police operation in Angono town east of Manila, officials said.

The CPP members were identified as Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio. The couple, both aged 69, were consultants of the CPP for peace talks with the government that ended in November 2017.

They had retired from active duty on account of their age, according to the party. The police said both had “resisted arrest” and fought arresting officers, which led to their deaths. Police claimed to have retrieved weapons from the clash site.

“We reject the claims of the police that the couple resisted arrest and were killed in a firefight,” the CPP said in a statement on Sunday.

“In their physical state, the couple would not have been able to manage the sheer number of weapons claimed to be found at the scene, much less put up a rigorous gun battle.”

The two had held high positions within the movement, with Magpantay considered a leading member of the party cadre, and Topacio once serving as the regional commander of the NPA in the central plains of Luzon.

Three other consultants of the CPP have been slain since last year.

Prison sentence

Meanwhile, a regional trial court in suburban Quezon City north of Manila on Friday sentenced to 40 years in prison two high-profile leftist leaders for kidnapping.

Benito Tiamzon, 68, and his wife, Wilma, 69, were also ordered to pay damages amounting to 225,000 pesos (U.S. $4,675) to Lt. Abraham Claro Casis, who along with two other soldiers was kidnapped by the NPA in June 1988, and kept captive for 75 days.

The Tiamzons were identified as being behind the abductions.

The two were not in court during the sentencing, as they have been on the run since 2016 when a Manila court granted them bail as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s political accommodation to the guerrillas at the beginning of his six-year term in office.

Duterte later pulled back from the negotiating table and accused the rebels of continuing attacks despite the peace process.

Last month, the government said that communist insurgents have reemerged as a grave internal security threat to the Philippines, and sought additional funds from Congress to bankroll its anti-insurgency programs.

It also accused the rebels of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to launch more attacks.

According to the military, the NPA has about 5,000 fighters among 80 fronts nationwide, down from almost 20,000 in the 1980s.

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