Statement of the UP Diliman University Council on the Deaths of Chad Booc and the New Bataan 5

Justice for Chad Booc and the New Bataan 5!

The University Council UP Diliman (UPD) stands with the College of Engineering, the UPD Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff, and other units of the University in calling for justice for our slain iskolar ng bayan, Chad Booc, along with Lumad school volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II, community health worker Elegyn Balonga, and their accompanying drivers Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon, together known as the “New Bataan 5.” We condemn, in the strongest terms, the killings of the NEW BATAAN 5, as well that of other activists and human rights defenders under the culture of red-tagging and impunity that has been institutionalized by the present administration.

We are outraged at how the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NTF-ELCAC have justified their deaths, on accusations that they were members of the New People’s Army. The official autopsy on Chad’s remains by UP forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun showed that he died almost instantly, from a clear “intent to kill.” From the examination, Dr. Fortun also noted the intent to conceal the particulars of what she termed a “homicide.” This casts doubt on the government narrative of Chad’s participation in an armed encounter with government troops.

Chad Booc was an exemplary student, having graduated cum laude from the College of Engineering in 2016. Yet, instead of using his credentials to attain a life of material comfort, he answered the call to serve the Lumad as a teacher, recognizing their plight as one of the most marginalized and exploited groups in the country. There, living with and learning from Lumad youth, he sharpened his understanding of their arduous struggle to preserve their ancestral domains and their culture. Throughout his time as a volunteer teacher, he was red-tagged, until he and several others were arrested in 2021 on charges of exploiting their Lumad students—charges that were later dismissed by the court for lack of evidence. Upon his release, he returned to Mindanao to resume his obligations to the Lumad communities.

In dedicating his life to the underserved, Chad embodied the University’s core values of critical engagement and true public service. We mourn the loss of one of our brightest as we stand together to call for justice for Chad and for other victims of red-tagging and state violence. We call on the Duterte government to conduct an open and thorough investigation into the deaths of the NEW BATAAN 5, and demand that the state stop its barbarous practice of red-tagging. We amplify our call for government accountability, and stand with other academic communities and the Filipino people to advance social justice and human rights.

The UPD University Council is headed by Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo and composed of professors, associate professors, and assistant professors.