“Do not worry. The masses love us very much. They need us here.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “Not all good-looking people seek a career in show business. Many join the New People’s Army.”
This is how Jang Monte opened her talk about her “artistahin” (showbiz pretty) sister Recca before students of the University of the Philippines in Manila on Nov. 12. She wanted to make her talk “light.”
Still, Jang cried, and in between her tears, related how her sister was just like any other student in the room. Only that Recca chose an unconventional path.
Recca, 33, was among the seven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed in a military operation on Sept. 4 and 5 in Lacub, Abra. Apart from the seven guerrillas, two civilians, engineer and non-government worker Fidela Salvador and Noel Viste, were also killed.
Jang shared that her sister was a bright student. She graduated valedictorian from elementary, a silver medalist at the Manila Science High School and qualified as an Intarmed (Integrated Liberal Arts and Medicine) student at the University of the Philippines. This caused “oohs” from impressed students resonating at the university’s Little Theater.
Intarmed is a seven-year program of the UP College of Medicine, which shortens medical education by two years. Development Studies major Allia Acosta said Recca must have been really smart because she qualified for the special track in the university.
Recca, however, pursued industrial engineering at the UP Diliman campus. There, she joined a cultural group, where she became an activist.
On Apr. 24, 2002, Recca’s 21st birthday and Cordillera Day, she went to Kalinga to join the NPA.
Serving the masses
Jang said their family always worried about Recca. Their father Noel Monte Sr, a former member of the Philippine Navy, knows how the state treats its enemies.
“Do not worry. The masses love us very much. They need us here” were Recca’s assuring lines to Jang whenever they had a chance to speak on the phone.
In communities where the Philippine government’s presence was hardly felt, Recca and her comrades were able to help provide electricity to over 80 homes with the installation of a mini-hydroelectric pump.
Added to Recca’s satisfaction from serving the masses, Jang revealed that her sister was thrilled that they have “unli” – short for “unlimited” – coffee in the mountains of Kalinga as the province is known for its premium coffee beans.
NPAs, said Jang, are often portrayed as heartless beings. But Recca’s greatest sacrifice, a sacrifice like no other, was leaving behind her then five-month-old son to Jang’s care so she could continue her work as a revolutionary.
But before she headed back to the mountains, Recca asked her family and friends to help raise her son.
Jang said Recca prepared well before she left her son that after she headed back to her unit, the breast milk supply she left stored in the freezer lasted for three months.
“I am doing this for him,” Recca said.
The Monte family learned of Recca’s death on Sept. 7. And though death was “part of the package” in the path her sister took, Jang related that one could never be prepared.
But it was the state of Recca’s remains that shocked her. Not a single bullet pierced her body but Recca’s face was mutilated. Her skull was like a “crushed egg.” Her legs, too, were crushed. To this day, Jang said, she is still horrified whenever she imagines how Recca was killed.
The remains of the others also bear signs of desecration. Arnold Jaramillo, for one, considered as the “prize catch” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was riddled with bullets.
How many bullets must be fired, Jang asked, for one’s body to become “porous as a sponge?” Not even Jaramillo’s fingers, she added, were spared. Ironically, Jaramillo’s face was not hit. “How else would they be able to claim the P2 million bounty if he was beyond recognition?” she said.
Human rights groups have called for the prosecution of the 41st Infantry Battalion, which, they dubbed, “massacre battalion.”
Resume peace talks
Jang, for her part, called for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“It is difficult when combatants are no longer treated like humans,” she said, adding that if people are angered by viral videos of animal cruelty, then they should all the more be angry if it involves fellow human beings.
Jang said that under international humanitarian law, there is no need “to finish off” combatants who are weak, wounded or unable to fight. There is such a thing as “prisoners of war” and treating them well and releasing them shows a sign of good will and sincerity to resolve the armed conflict.
The 41ST IB officials and soldiers who were involved in the atrocious military operations in September were, instead. honored by the AFP. Jang said this goes to show that the military does not only tolerate but even lauds the inhumanity they did to Recca and the eight others.
“We demand the resumption of peace talks,” she said, “We do not want any more children who are unable to attend classes because soldiers are encamping in their school buildings, or peasants who cannot till the land because of widespread land grabbing.”