Child killed, another wounded in M203 blast in Panay island

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    On March 11, 2012, at around 3:30 p.m., Rodelyn Aguirre and her sister Baby were outside their house in a village in Tapaz, Capiz when an explosion struck just a meter and a half from their house. During the explosion, the two children were with their grandfather, Julian Aguirre, since both their parents were away at work. Rodilyn, who was sharpening a piece of wood with a bolo, was hit by M203 grenade shrapnel in different parts of her body, resulting in fatal injuries. The most fatal wounds were on her left eye and her neck. The bolo she was holding was cut in half. Baby sustained superficial injuries on her face, arms and stomach.

    Julian immediately sought the help of neighbors and village officials. They brought the children to the hospital in Calinog town. The Calinog town proper is at least two hours walk and another hour ride by motorcycle away from the village. Shortly after they left the village, Rodilyn died on the road while Baby was admitted to the Calinog District Hospital for treatment. She was reported to be in stable condition. Rodilyn was supposed to graduate from kindergarten in a few weeks.

    Julian narrated to village officials, led by village chief Selderico Diaz, that the blast came from the direction of the army detachment, some 200 meters away. The following day, army soldiers came to the house of Roberto Aguirre and picked up fragments of the explosive. Policemen from the Tapaz Police Station arrived later in the day to conduct their own investigation. It is common knowledge among the residents of Tacayan that army personnel Willy Faulo carries an M203 grenade launcher. The army detachment has been in Brgy.

    Tacayan for many years, and was a subject of complaint by barangay residents, who feared for their safety because of the presence of armed military personnel in the populated area of the barangay. Prior to the incident, on the evening of March 10, 2012, Robert Aguirre, the children’s father was looking for his lost carabao when he met a group of army soldiers. Out of surprise, he drew his bolo, while army men pointed their rifles at him. The Philippine army, through local mass media, said the explosion came from a land mine of the New People’s Army. The detachment unit led by army officer Ricky Montalban said they did not know where the explosion came from.

    Barangay residents knew the explosion could have only been caused by a weapon from the army detachment. They said they did not see any New People’s Army member coming near the barangay. The Aguirre family and the Tacayan barangay officials and the Tumandok indigenous people organization sought the help of civilian authorities and agencies for a thorough investigation of the incident so that those responsible will be made to answer and justice may be rendered to the innocent victims. Just last month, on February 25, two children were killed with their father while another child was injured when soldiers of the 49th Infantry Battalion indiscriminately fired at a civilian’s house in a village in Labo, Camarines Sur. The soldiers immediately labeled the children’s father as member of the NPA.

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