The ecumenical group Pilgrims for Peace called for an “impartial investigation” into the death of Ericson Acosta, known as a poet, journalist, and “resource person” of the rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“The details surrounding his death need to be thoroughly and impartially investigated due to possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” read a statement signed by the group of Catholic and Protestant Church leaders.
Acosta and a companion were reportedly captured by the Philippine Army’s 94th and 47th Infantry Battalions at about 2 a.m. on November 30 in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, province.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, announced later that Acosta and his companion died in an armed encounter.
“In light of this information, as well as the numerous cases in the past of such fabricated stories to cover up acts of summary execution, Pilgrims for Peace calls for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by both the [Philippine government] and NDFP, so that an impartial investigation may be conducted,” read the group’s statement.
“We also call on the Commission on Human Rights to undertake the same,” it added.
“If found that the reports of the extrajudicial killing of Acosta and his companion by the military are true, the AFP must be taken to task for this abomination, which is part and parcel of a militaristic, ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach to the long running armed conflict with the [Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army].
Pilgrims for Peace said Acosta’s death “is all the more lamentable due to his untiring efforts as an NDFP peace resource person.”
The group said Acosta was working in Negros province “to share developments regarding the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” a landmark document that seeks to address the root causes of the armed struggle.
The military, however, said the claims made by the rebels as reported in the media were all “lies.”
Military spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said the rebels’ statements “are far from the truth to merit our people’s attention.”
The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) claimed that two rebels were killed in an “encounter” that took place about 2:10 a.m. while the two battalions were conducting a joint combat operation.
After a five-minute firefight, the rebels withdrew. Another encounter occurred 100 meters from the first clash site about 2:15 a.m. as the troops conducted pursuit operations.
“The ten-minute exchange of fire yielded two unidentified dead NPAs,” said the military in a statement.
According to the military, seized from deceased suspected rebels were a KG9 with magazine and ammunition, two Cal.45 Pistol with magazines and ammunition, two hand grenades, documents, and lecture materials.