(Philstar.com) – November 30, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna) slammed the military for parading the body of her daughter who was killed in a shootout with the Philippine Army last weekend, saying it was disrespectful of soldiers to pose for photographs with the slain woman.
“She is not a thing, she is not a trophy to be paraded for military propaganda. You did not respect the dead, you are also disrespecting our family’s grief,” she said in a statement in Filipino.
The Philippine Army on Sunday reported that Jevilyn Campos Cullamat, 22, was killed in a shootout in barangay San Isidro, Marihatag in Surigao del Sur. She was the only casualty in the encounter, the military said.
One photo from the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion, as posted by state-run Philippine News Agency, showed Jevilyn’s body laid down with weapons that the military seized, while the soldiers posed in the back while holding up a captured banner.
PNA has since taken down its tweet showing the photo.
The lawmaker asked the military to not use her youngest daughter’s remains as a trophy and to allow their family to mourn the loss and to honor her.
According to the rules of war under International Humanitarian Law, particularly Rule 25, permanent medical personnel — according to military reports, the younger Cullamat was a medic — “shall be respected and protected at all times: they may not be made the object of attack but may not participate in hostilities either.”
The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives also called for accountability of those who circulated the photos of Jevilyn where they said her body was “obviously posed” as if she was still carrying a rifle and with troops displaying her body with seized paraphernalia.
“We demand that all these photos be immediately withdrawn from government websites and those responsible for circulating them held accountable,” the Makabayan bloc added.
Cullamat says daughter ‘a heroine for Lumads’
Cullamat said she is proud of Jevilyn who loved her country and served as a heroine for Lumads. “We raised her to be patriotic, brave and with independent mind and beliefs,” she added.
“Her decision to join the armed struggle is not a simple thing, and is a result of the abuse we Lumads suffer and the grave poverty she witnesses. Her two eyes saw how the paramilitary killed out leader Dionel Campos, Datu Bello Sinzo and Alcadev Executive Director Emerito Samarca on Sept. 1, 2015,” Cullamat said.
A report by Kalinaw News, a wesbite run by the Civil-Military Operations Regiment of the Philippine Army, said Jevilyn served as a medic of the New People’s Army and belonged to the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda Platoon of Guerilla Front 19, Northeastern Regional Committee.
“It is my great honor that I had a child who became a martyr and a fighter,” she added.
“There is no mother that will renounce her child who put away her own interests and laid down her life for the nation and to defend the land of our ancestors,” the lawmaker also said.
Calls to address roots causes of armed struggle
Kabataan party-list mourned the loss of Jevilyn as it reminded the military that disrespecting the remains of anyone, including rebels, is unacceptable. “The International Humanitarian Law states that the dead should be respected no matter the principle or beliefs,” they added.
Kabataan also reiterated their call to addressing the roots of the armed struggle in the country. They also noted that peace talks were terminated in 2017.
“Hangga’t hindi tinutugunan ng gobyerno ang kahirapan, kawalan ng lupa ng mga magsasaka, mababang sahod, kawalan ng trabaho, at sa halip ay pasismo ang isinasagot nito sa mamayang lumalaban, mananatiling may hahawak ng armas,” the group said.
(So long as the government fails to address poverty, landlessness of farmers, low wages, lack of jobs and instead answer the people who are fighting with fascism, someone will always take up arms.)
The Makabayan bloc, for its part, stressed that these social issues may be addressed by the peace negotiations. “Jevilyn’s death is a stark reminder instead to government that people continue to embrace armed struggle because of the continuous failure to address the root causes of the rebellion in our country,” they added.
Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list) also urged the government to stop using Jevilyn’s death to amplify red-tagging. “Only psychopaths and terrorists are capable of taking photo opportunities with a dead body,” she added.
The shootout happened amid an ongoing Senate probe on red-tagging of progressive groups including lawmakers under the House Makabayan bloc who are being accused without proof of being communist rebels.
Brosas also urged the government to tackle long-term solutions to poverty, massive landlessness, agricultural backwardness, record high employment and lack of basic national industries. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Xave Gregorio