Survivors of the June 25, 1989 Rano massacre on Friday marked its 32nd anniversary through a tribute along with national and local officials in Barangay Binaton in Digos, Davao Del Sur.The New People’s Army (NPA) was behind the massacre that left 39 people – 22 children, 10 women, and seven men – dead on the spot. Survivors recounted how the rebels mercilessly went on a three-hour killing spree, gunning down the innocent civilians.
One of the survivors, Nelly Ayap-Digal who was 15-years-old during the massacre, vividly remembers the gathering that morning for worship at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Sitio Rano in Barangay Binaton.
She said about 73 members of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe were attending the Mass when her uncle came and warned them that heavily armed NPA rebels headed by “Kumander Bensar” were approaching.
“We did not listen to him, we continued worshipping and later on, we heard a gunshot. They (NPA) killed my uncle. We ran and hid in a nearby house but they fired at us. I saw my relatives and neighbors killed and soaked in their own blood,” Digal said in the vernacular, adding that her nephew was one of them.
“I was hit in the head and in my spine. I was then rushed to the hospital,” she recalled.
“It pains me every time I think about it. However, I still thank God that I am alive and have recovered from the incident,” she added.
Meanwhile, Helen Dominguez, one of the survivors who lost five family members on that fateful day, narrated that some of them managed to run away and go into hiding while the others, including her family, were left behind and mercilessly shot dead by Bensar’s group.
“I ran and hid through the squash plants with my four-year-old child and prayed to God that we are spared from harm. I heard people screaming and begging for help but Besnar ordered his men to fire at them,” she said in the vernacular.
She added that NPA rebels went to three houses near the chapel and killed everyone who was caught hiding.
After three hours of killing spree, the group went back to the UCCP chapel and started singing and laughing about the carnage. Sensing that the perpetrators already left, Dominguez and her child stood up and saw bloodied dead bodies.
She cannot describe her anguish when she saw the lifeless body of her pastor husband who was beheaded by the communist group.
“They beheaded my husband. I lost five members of my family. You just don’t know how painful it is,” Dominguez said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, who personally attended the commemoration, said the 1989 incident is a manifestation that the government at that time was not helping to address the needs of the people.
“I guess the government during that time has not responded to your needs, that is why the presence of these killers (NPA) are everywhere,” she said.
Badoy, who is also National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict spokesperson, vowed that the Duterte administration would do everything to protect the welfare of the indigenous peoples.
“You know, at the end of the day, the President will always say there’s only one thing that the people want from a public servant, and that is to serve. You just serve. That’s what the President says if you want this (insurgency) to end,” she added.