Child advocates decry CHR decision on Grecil

Jun. 05, 2007

They’re urging for independent autopsy of Grecil’s remains, particularly since there were traces of powder burns on the child’s head — an indication that she may have been shot at close range, the groups said.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Children’s advocates in the city today denounced the Commission on Human Rights in the region for its decision clearing members of the Philippine military in the death of Grecl Buya, the nine-year-old girl from New Bataan who was killed two months ago during a firefight between troops and communist guerrillas.

In a statement, the Kabiba Alliance for Childrens Concerns in Mindanao and the Childrens Rehabilitation Center (CRC) Southern Mindanao said they were dismayed by the CHR decision handed down on May 21 that said the commission found no merit in the murder complaint filed by Grecil’s parents, Gregorio Galacio and Virginia Buya. The parents alleged that soldiers summarily executed Grecil and later labeled her a combatant of the New People’s Army to justify her death.

In the decision, the CHR said that the complainants failed to provide substantial evidences against the soldiers who, in contrast, were able to deny the allegations through counter-affidavits and countervailing evidences.

The CHR said Grecil was killed in the crossfire of a legitimate encounter and, as such, the soldiers cannot be held liable for human rights violation, particularly because there was no evidence to suggest that the troops acted irresponsibly and with disregard to existing protocols.

The CHR, Kabiba executive secretary Honey May Suazo siad, is passing the burden of proof to the victim and is trying to vindicate human rights violators.

Suazo added that Grecil as non-NPA combatant is a valid fact” while the CHRs conclusion — that she died in a crossfire during a legitimate encounter — “is actually inconclusive because the CHR did not actually employ scientific and defensible probing methods like the conduct of autopsy.

Civil society organizations working for childrens rights are also discontented on the conduct of CHR investigation for it deliberately ignored the basic findings and recommendations of the National Interfaith Psycho-social First Aid Mission (NIPFAM) which include findings on the strafing of Galacios house and recommendation for autopsy to ensure impartial and scientifically grounded investigation, Suazo added.

Suazo’s point was echoed by Alphonse Rivera, officer-in-charge of Salinlahi Alliance for Childrens Concerns. In a statement, Rivera said they were “seriously alarmed” by the findings of the CHR. Does this mean that the soldiers are now excused from punishment because Grecil was killed in crossfire? he asked.

Riversa said an independent autopsy, “preferably by forensic experts like Dr. Racquel Fortun, who can provide scientific proof on the contentious issue,” should be conducted on Grecil’s remains.

While we welcome the vindication that Grecil is not a child soldier as the soldiers branded her, it is not really clear that she was killed in crossfire, said Rivera. The CHR did not conduct an autopsy as the family had requested. The autopsy would reveal whether Grecil was intentionally killed or was merely killed in the crossfire.”

Earlier results of a fact-finding conducted by Karapatan, Childrens Rehabilitation Center , Kabiba and Salinlahi showed that Grecil had gunpowder burns on her head, indicating that she may have been shot at close range.

When Tatay Gregorio Galacio and Nanay Virgie Buya came to us for help regarding Grecils case, they were insistent on the autopsy because they had to rest their doubts on whether or not Grecil was killed at close range, Rivera said.

Rivera also reiterated that the soldiers involved in the killing should be punished. If we just allow this to go unpunished, this will encourage the military to kill or harm children with impunity during so-called legitimate military operations. This will further aggravate the climate of fear created by the unabated killings and continue to deny justice for the victims.

The CRC’s advocacy officer, John Birondo, criticized the CHR for its “callousness” toward the victims of human rights violations by justifying Grecil “as just a fair game in the governments mindless all-out war policy.”

Birondo challenged the CHR “to be true to its mandate, which is defending human rights” that that “it must be victim-centered in all its work.

Aside from filing a complaint before the CHR, Grecil parents had also filed criminal and administrative cases before the Regional Trial Court and the Office of the Ombudsman. (

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