“While the Commission commiserates with the families of the victims and acknowledges that the killing of the Fallen 44 was unjustified, categorizing the incident as a ‘massacre’ is excessive,” Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales said in a statement released by Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles’ Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Chairwoman Rosales said CHR is concerned that some statements made in the Senate Committee report were influenced by emotion rather than objectivity.
“The mere use of high-powered firearms and mortars does not automatically equate to cruelty, inasmuch as it was not clearly established who, between the MILF and BIFF, used what. Moreover, this characterization also overlooks the fact that the SAF were armed, albeit outgunned. In other words, although their situation was dire, the SAF were not necessarily ‘helpless or unresisting’,” the human rights chief added.
“Worse, the Senate Report describes the situation as akin to walking into a trap,” she added. “This equates the incident to an ambush, which is not borne out by the records because the MILF itself, much less the BIFF, was unaware of the arrival of the SAF.”
She also said that the death of “five civilian and 17 MILF casualties, resulting in the death of a total of 66 Filipinos, including a child of 8 years of age” should not be overlooked.
The CHR chair also said if confirmed that 27 members of the Fallen 44 were shot to the head at close range, “these killings would be evidence of gross violations of international humanitarian law, warranting the filing of charges under RA 9851.”