LEGAZPI CITY – Two people were killed, including a young football player of the Far Eastern University (FEU), while a minor was wounded in an anti-personnel land mine (APM) blast believed to have been planted by the New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Masbate on Sunday.
In a statement, Maj. Malu Calubaquib, Police Regional Office 5 (PRO-5) spokesperson, said the incident in Purok 4, Barangay Anas killed FEU varsity player Kieth Absalon, 21, and his cousin Nolven Absalon, 40.
Chrisbin Daniel Absalon, 16, Nolven’s son, sustained injuries and is being treated at the Masbate Provincial Hospital.
A suspected anti-personnel land mine was detonated while the victims were riding on a bicycle.
The Masbate City Police Station received information from local residents about the explosion.
"Based on the investigation, the victims were cycling with their family and relatives going to Barangay B. Titong in the town proper," Calubaquib said.
Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, PRO-5 director, ordered the deployment of an additional police team in the area.
"All adjacent police stations were directed to conduct checkpoints," Calubaquib added.
PRO-5 condemned the rebel group’s attack.
"Ang insidenteng ito ay isa namang malinaw na patunay sa makasariling pilosopiya ng mga NPA, karahasang walang pinipiling tao, lugar o edad. Ang PNP Bicol ay kaisa ng bawat pamilyang Bicolano upang tuldukan ang limang dekadang pananakot at pagkitil sa mga buhay ng mga inosenteng mamamayan (This incident is another proof that the NPA only thinks about its interests. Their violent acts spare no one. PNP Bicol is one with the entire region in the bid to end five decades of instilling fear and killing innocent lives)," Estomo said in a statement.
Tributes poured in on Facebook for Absalon.
“We are all still very much in shock,” FEU football program head Vince Santos said in a statement.
"The FEU Tamaraw Community is deeply saddened by the passing away of Kieth Absalon of the FEU men’s football team. Kieth started his football journey with FEU as a 13-year-old, seventh grader in 2013 and became one of the best high school players in UAAP football history. Kieth’s toughness on the field and constant smiles off will truly be missed by his brothers in the men’s football team and the entire FEU community," FEU posted on Facebook.
Malaya Football Club, a non-profit organization that helps aspiring football players, said on Facebook “our hearts are broken as we bid farewell to another of our own”.
“A born leader, always motivating and inspiring his U19 teammates even at their lowest during their games. A follower of the highest order, always willing and able to take on any position assigned to him by his coaches and perform his best,” Malaya FC posted.
The group described Absalon as kind, gentle, and respectful off the pitch.
“Farewell, Keith. Thank you for sharing your brief moment on Earth with Malaya FC and bringing pride and inspiration to our lives,” the post read.
The FEU women’s football team sent its “heartfelt sympathy” to the Absalon family.
“We hope your family get courage to face the days ahead and with loving memories to hold in your hearts. May God help you get through this difficult time,” the post read.
The international community adopted the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine (APM) Ban Convention prohibiting the acquisition, production, stockpiling, and use of the weapons.
More than 160 states are party to the APM Ban Convention that went into effect in 1999.
APM is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Even if it is “command detonated” as alleged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) information officer Marco Valbuena always justifies, APM kills and can kill civilian non-combatants, according to authorities.
The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines (PNA)