The killing of Chad Booc and his four companions in Sitio Andap, New Bataan, Davao de Oro last February 24, 2022 means five less of very few Lumad advocates.
The father of Chad described him as an “extraordinary man” who excelled in school, a consistent honor student from elementary to high school, and a cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He had his pick of secure careers, but chose to devote his life serving the Lumad and laborers.[i]
Chad had spent the most productive years of his very short life in the Lumad communities which he served. He and his companions were killed after doing research work in the town of New Bataan. All five were tagged as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).[ii]
An official of the Philippine Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade has insisted that Chad and his companions were killed as a result of an encounter with the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.[iii]
Villagers on the other hand attest that there was no encounter between the military and the NPA in Andap on that day.[iv]
The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy also contradicted the military’s claim of an encounter. The initial report showed that the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Chad’s spinal cord was transected, or cut.[v] The forensic expert explained that a person with a transected spinal cord would be immobilized if not “die immediately” from neurogenic shock.[vi]
All five died without dignity and a total lack of information surrounding their deaths. Chad’s body was found by his family in a funeral parlor.[vii]
Whether or not we share Chad’s convictions when he was alive, no human being created by God deserves such a cruel death.
If the military believed then that Chad’s actions were threats to the state, it should have had him investigated and prosecuted according to law. After all, it could always rely on the support of the government and of the whole armed forces in pursuing its convictions.
Chad and his fellow volunteers died of overkill. We strongly denounce its perpetrators.
The apparent choice of violent liquidation of unarmed civilians like Chad and companions instead of legal prosecution is incomprehensible and indefensible. It runs contrary to our Christian and constitutional values of life, human dignity and observance of due process.
As members of the academe, we say no to such violence and killing even as we continue to advocate peace and pledge cooperation with law enforcers and the military. We laud the efforts of the PNP in reaching out to the academe, the marginalized communities and other sectors of society in establishing partnerships towards peace building and development.
As Christians, we strive for truth, kindness and human dignity. We want to be moved by compassion, in solidarity and peace with all women and men. We recall Pope Francis’ words, “Every act of violence committed against a human being is a wound in humanity’s flesh; every violent death diminishes us as people. Violence leads to more violence, hatred to more hatred, death to more death. We must break this cycle which seems inescapable.”[ix]
Let us collaborate to stop the vicious cycle of violence.