An ecumenical group on Tuesday called for an investigation over the government’s counter-insurgency operations in Negros province, which it described as “sinister and immoral”.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) made the call following the brutal killing of the members of the Fausto family, including the two minors, in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on June 14.
“Children and civilians are never legitimate targets of civil war. The heinous executions of Ben and Ravin chill to the bone for how sinister and immoral the government’s counter-insurgency program has become,” the group said in a statement.
Based on a report released by the rights group September 21 Movement, peasant woman Emelda Fausto, 50, and her two children Ben, 15, and Raben, 12, were killed by alleged elements of the Philippine Army while they were sleeping inside their hut in Buenavista village.
PCPR said the murder of the Fausto children “triggered a deluge of outrage.” The group called on the public to “expose the depraved psywar tactics being employed against the rural peasants.”
“By all appearances, these little ones were killed as an example to other peasants that even their children will not be spared if they do not cooperate with the military and their dreaded National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” the group said.
Prior to the “murder,” the Fausto family had been subjected to an aggressive red-tagging campaign, facing threats, and harassment, according to rights groups.
Members of the Fausto family sought the help of their church – Iglesia Filipina Independiente – “on how to legally counter this red-tagging, in light of the threats and harassment that they had been receiving.”
PCPR said the killing of the Fausto children and their parents “is so repugnant and repulsive that our indignation cannot be assuaged.”
“Not only does this massacre demonstrate the barbaric evil of unchecked militarism but it also illustrates how red-tagging foreshadows extra-judicial killings and other violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law,” the group said.
The group reiterated that state security forces are “not allowed to execute its citizens,” adding that under various domestic and international laws, “this incident constitutes a war crime… stains the very fibers of our collective codes of humanitarian conduct and morality.”
PCPR denounced the military for targeting ordinary “landless farmers of Negros,” who have been “oppressed for generations”.
“Their clamor for access to basic and social services as well as agrarian reform that addresses their landlessness, as a root of their poverty is both righteous and just,” the group said.
Early this week the Commission on Human Rights said it has started the motu proprio investigation on the brutal killing of the four members of the Fausto family.