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On December 17, 2020, five individuals in Baras, Rizal were slain by military forces. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was allegedly serving arrest warrants against members of the New People’s Army, a militant sect of the Communist Party of the Philippines. However, Campaign Human Rights Philippines identified the five victims as being: Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Carlito Zonio, Jhonatan, and Niño Alberga. Five farmworkers with no association to the New People’s Army. Furthermore, residents of the area claim to have heard cries for help occurring as the alleged ‘shootout’ took place. This contradicts the military’s justification of the encounter being an armed altercation. The information officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Marco Valbuena, denied the association between the five victims and the CPP. “We denounce the AFP’s peddling of fake news to cover up their criminal responsibility in the Baras 5 Massacre”.

Of the five victims, only four of their bodies are currently recovered. The remains of Vilma Salbao are still being held by the Baras Municipal Police. The four returned bodies were found to have incurred physical trauma indicative of torture, including burns, abrasions, broken bones, and missing teeth.

Secretary-General Cristina Palabay of the left-wing non-governmental organization and human rights alliance known as Karapatan shared a statement: “We call on the police and the military to release Salbao’s remains and to let her family grieve for her death. Karapatan joins their families not only in mourning but also in demanding justice for the victims of this massacre and we call on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation on the incident.”

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