DAVAO CITY - The remains of New People's Army (NPA) leader Menandro Villanueva (alias Bok), killed in an encounter with government troops in Mabini, Davao de Oro on January 5, have been claimed by his family.
Villanueva's body was taken by his children who flew in from Cavite two days after his death, Capt. Robert Escalona, Civil-Military Officer of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said in an online interview over John Paul Seniel Reports.
"They said they heard the news about his death and they decided to go to Davao de Oro to make sure if it is really their father," he said.
At the funeral parlor, the children identified that it was indeed their father whom they have not seen for two decades. One said she was only three years old when she last saw him and could no longer recall how he looked like.
Before releasing the body, the children had to provide government-issued identification cards and birth certificates indicating Villanueva as their father.
"We made sure that they are really the children of Bok. We already had a sad experience before wherein the dead body was claimed by somebody who is not a family member of the slain NPA rebel," Escalona said.
He added that Villanueva's children were very cooperative during the entire process and understood his fate.
"They do not have the same principles. One of his children commented that they cannot meddle with their father's principle," he said.
Escalona assured them that they took care of the body of Villanueva, who was reportedly 70, and did not immediately bury him, giving ample time for his family to claim his body and pay their final respects.
"We took care of him because like us, he is also human despite having a different principle. In fact, after the encounter, we tried our best to save Villanueva but unfortunately, he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital," he said.
The Eastern Mindanao Command said Villanueva was a student activist of Kabataang Makabayan from Philippine Science High School before going underground during Martial Law in the 1970s.
He was the national operations commander of the NPA, long-time secretary of the National Democratic Front's (NDF) Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, and served in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) central committee.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as "an integral and separate part" of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)