A Year On, No Justice for New Bataan 5
February 24, 2023, marks the first year of the brutal killings of Chad Booc, Gelejurain “Jurain” Ngujo II, Elegyn Balonga, Robert Aragon, and Tirso Añar, known as the New Bataan 5. A year without justice for the victims of the New Bataan 5 Massacre reverberates our determination to pursue justice for victims of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, and to defend Indigenous Peoples' territories, right to self-determination, education, and life.
Before the killing of the New Bataan 5 by elements of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lumad school volunteer teachers Chad and Jurain have been subjected to red-tagging and terrorist labeling by the Philippines’ National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. In 2021, state forces filed trumped-up charges against Chad, Jurain —an obvious attempt to intimidate and silence Indigenous Peoples’ human rights defenders.
Chad and Jurain's commitment to the Lumad community was unwavering, as demonstrated by the testimony of past students who witnessed their unwearied efforts to foster a nationalist, scientific, and community-focused education, with a particular focus on sustainable local agriculture, and the protection of their ancestral lands.
Elegyn bravely served as a community health worker in Lumad areas, where access to adequate healthcare remains a persistent challenge. However, the Philippine government prioritizes funding for military services over basic social services like education and healthcare, especially in far-flung communities such as indigenous communities.
Moreover, Robert and Tirso were victims of flagrant violations of human rights by state forces. They accompanied Chad, Jurain, and Elegyn to New Bataan, Davao de Oro, as drivers, to document the plight of Lumad communities.
The Philippine justice system is not infallible, and despite forensic pathologist Raquel Del Rosario-Fortun's autopsy report on Chad's remains, justice remains elusive for the New Bataan 5 victims.
The autopsy report reveals that the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the trunk and right upper extremity, resulting in severe injuries such as lacerations of vital organs including the spinal cord, lungs, liver, spleen, kidney, stomach, and intestines, and internal hemorrhages, and fractures in several bones including ribs, vertebrae and right arm. The report unequivocally concludes that the manner of death was a homicide.
Despite public outcry to investigate the heinous killing of the New Bataan 5, the AFP continues to discredit Chad, Jurain, Elegyn, Robert, Tirso, and all indigenous communities and advocates fighting for their rights.
The Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold Indigenous Peoples' Rights firmly stands with the families of the New Bataan 5 and supports the Indigenous Peoples' and advocates' call for justice for the victims of this heinous incident. The legacies of Chad, Jurain, Elegyn, Robert, and Tirso, who dedicated their lives to the Lumad struggles in Mindanao, will forever be ingrained in the Indigenous Peoples' history of struggles. These heroes and martyrs serve as an inspiration for today's generation to continue defending human rights despite red-tagging, terrorist labeling, criminalization, harassment, and killings.
We urge all human rights defenders and advocates of Indigenous Peoples' rights and welfare to join our calls to action:
JUSTICE FOR THE NEW BATAAN 5!
STOP THE ATTACKS AGAINST INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ADVOCATES! UPHOLD INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' RIGHTS!