Ramos Orders Investigation of Charges the Army Massacred Civilians
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The military on Friday ordered an investigation of charges that soldiers massacred at least seven civilians after a battle with bloodiest violence since a cease-fire ended five days ago.
In other developments:
- Two rebels were wounded in a clash with soldiers near Davao City.
- About 800 people rallied outside a U.S. air base to demand an investigation of reports that nuclear weapons are deployed there.
- A rebel leader on the main Luzon island rejected government overtures for regional peace talks.
- Insurgents on southern Mindanao island announced the formation of a provisional council, to be the forerunner of a rival national government.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Fidel V. Ramos ordered an investigation of reports in The Philippine Star newspaper that troops killed civilians Tuesday in retaliation for the death of a lieutenant slain by the Communist New People’s Army.
The violence occurred in a farming community near Lupao in Nueva Ecija province, 90 miles north of the capital of Manila.
There were conflicting reports on how many people were killed in the three- hour battle, and how many of the victims were civilians.
The army said one of its lieutenants, Edgardo Dizon, and 11 rebels were killed in the battle. Provincial Vice Gov. Antonio Paguia said 18 people died, including at least 12 civilians caught in the cross fire. The Philippine Star quoted Mayor George Castaneda as saying none of those killed were rebels.
The newspaper said seven civilians were massacred by troops to avenge the death of Dizon. It quoted witnesses as saying troops herded civilians into a house, sprayed it with automatic gunfire and set it ablaze.
The victims all were residents of Namulandayan village at the foot of the Caraballo Mountains, said Emmanuel Noli Santos, the governor of Nueva Ecija province.
Santos said the dead included a couple and their four children, ranging in age from 4 to 21, and a 25-year-old woman. He said their charred remains were recovered from the ashes of one of three houses that were burned down.
One witness, 14-year-old Marilyn Carnate, said in a sworn statement that a soldier kicked her her father, Ernesto, to the ground and stabbed him twice with a jungle knife.
The girl said the soldier shouted at her father, ″Maybe you are one of the NPA″ before thrusting the knife.
She said her 5-year-old brother, Arnold, and her grandparents, both in their 80s, also were killed.
Ramos said Thursday that 38 people have been killed since the 60-day cease- fire ended Sunday. He said the victims included 22 rebels, 15 soldiers and one civilian. It was not clear if his count included the dead at Namulandayan.
In the latest clash Friday, soldiers raided a coconut grove 2 1/2 miles from Davao City, about 610 miles southeast of Manila, after a small group of rebels was spotted there.
City police commander Maj. Franco Calida said the rebels, two of whom were wounded, escaped. Calida said the rebels were believed responsible for a grenade attack Thursday at a Davao police station in which 13 people were injured.
Since the collapse of national peace talks with the Communist-led National Democratic Front last month, the government has offered to talk with regional guerrilla groups.
Gregorio Rosal, the Front’s spokesman for the southern Tagalog area of Luzon, said in a radio interview Friday his group rejected regional talks.
A rebel group in eastern Mindanao also turned down the offer and announced formation of a Mindanao Provisional Council as the forerunner of a rival national government.
″Later, if we win, we will replace this government with a revolutionary government whose class content would have peasants and farmer not represented in the Aquino government,″ said the council’s vice chairman, known by nom de guerre, Ka Victor.
Meanwhile, about 200 police and Philippine marines guarded Clark Air Base, 50 miles north of Manila, during a peaceful three-hour rally by the Nuclear- Free Philippines Movement headed by Bishop Antonino Nepomuceno.
The bishop, speaking outside the base’s main gate, called on President Corazon Aquino to investigate reports that nuclear weapons are stored in Clark and Subic Naval Base, 30 miles southwest of Clark.