BUTUAN CITY – The government militiaman killed by communist guerillas last week in the Surigao del Sur town of San Miguel was laid to rest Sunday morning (April 19).
Wilson Esta Behing, a member of the Manobo tribe in Barangay Carromata, San Miguel, was killed by the New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday (April 14) while tending his farm and was unarmed. Reports said Behing’s killing was witnessed by his children.
His brother, Nilo, turned emotional during the burial, as he lambasted the NPA in the area for the alleged killings of several civilians in the area, most of whom are indigenous peoples (IPs).
“We were once considered by them (NPA) as their masses. But time went on that we could no longer comprehend what they are fighting for, so we decided to support the government for our own good,” Nilo said in a recorded statement sent to the Philippine News Agency Sunday.
“In the mountains where the IPs reside, the NPA rebel now hunt us like wild animals. They completely disregarded the value of our lives,” he added.
Nilo said the communist rebel movement should stop saying that the masses in the countryside are the “strength and hope of this country, for now, they are killing innocent civilians”.
The killing of Behing was condemned by the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples in Caraga Region (NCIP-13), the Philippine Army, and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
On March 19, the NPA also killed Datu Bernandino Astudillo, 73, the Manobo tribal leader of Magroyong, San Miguel and a civilian identified as Zaldy Ibanez, 52.
With the NPA killing of tribesmen who do not support the armed rebellion, Nilo said it was time for the government to consider providing round-the-clock security to IP communities as they now fear going back to their ancestral lands because the NPA rebels are “roaming around and hunting us”.
“This is my appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte. Help the IPs to have peaceful lives so that we could move on with our lives, produce food for our families,” Nilo said.
Meanwhile, Behing’s widow, Amie, expressed sadness and fear with the loss of her husband, saying she is worried about the future of her five children. Her eldest is 10 and the youngest is three.
“I don’t know how to survive with my children. They are still young. The NPA has stolen their future. They have no heart to our children,” Amie said in the local dialect.
“Why did the NPA kill my husband? How grave was his sin that they decided to take his life?” she said.
Amie recalled that the NPA killed her husband in front of their children “who were helpless to defend their father”.
“My children are really affected. Oftentimes, they cry when they recall that day when the NPA killed their father. I really pity them. This will not be lost in their memory until they grow up,” she said.
Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of San Miguel town, has appealed to the NPA to ” stop the killing of civilians, especially the IPs”.
Maca is the older brother of Amie and the brother-in-law of Behing.
“Life is very difficult for us now with the danger posed by Covid-19 (2019 coronavirus disease) and the continuing threats of the NPA,” Maca said in an interview with the PNA on Sunday.
“With the Covid-19, most of the IPs want to go back and concentrate in remote villages to be safe and to have a chance to farm for a living. But the NPA rebels are also there waiting and ready to kill us. Where will the IPs go?” he said.
He appealed to the government to give justice to his brother-in-law, as well as for government agencies to help the widow of Behing and her children.
“In the middle of this pandemic, my sister and the other widows whose husbands were killed by the NPA need immediate intervention by the government,” Maca said.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (PNA)