1st Lt. Ronald Bautista, 27, of Nabanga, Bohol was brutally killed by NPA bandits while travelling home for New Year. Prior to his death, Bautista was deployed to Anitapan village, Mabini, Comval Province to carry out community outreach activities.
He was returning home from a remote field assignment in Compostela Valley to reunite with his family during Christmas truce, but enemy bullets claimed his life.
Released for the New Year's break, 1st Lt Ronald Bautista, 25, a member of the Philippine Military Class of 2011, was travelling on a civilian motorcycle with two military personnel when NPA bandits blocked their path and murdered them in cold blood at around 9:45 am on December 29, 2014 in Candinuyan village, Mabini, Compostela Valley.
Among the victims of the murderous attack were Private First Class Albert Amor and militiaman Renel Baluca.
Bautista and his men came from a hinterland village of Anitapan where his platoon was deployed for community outreach activities during the yuletide season. He was enroute to Davao City where he was supposed to board a plane bound for his home province in Bohol.
Knowing that 'Onad' (Bautista's nickname) was coming home in their hometown of Nabanga for the New Year, his father, Eulogio, was very excited.
"At about 6:00am on December 29, he called his mom to tell that he will bring gifts for his parents and each of his 7 siblings. He was very generous and kind to all of us," said Eulogio, a 59-year old chainsaw operator.
Eulogio said that another son, Gelo, 26, coincided his vacation trip from his workplace in Cebu City to join the annual family gathering.
He narrated that he and his wife, Chona, 48, were harvesting rice in the field when they were fetched by crying relatives.
"When they broke the sad news, we were both devastated. We did not expect that he will come home in a coffin during our reunion," he said in between sobs.
The elder Bautista said that he is very proud of his son who finished secondary school by helping them sell rice cakes.
"Through his hardwork, he became the first PMA graduate in this town. We are honored to have a faithful soldier in our family who readily offers personal sacrifices in the service of others," he said.
Private First Class Jacquel Cantuba, 30, of Masbate City has fond memories of the slain officer. He said that they considered each other as real brothers since they first met when Bautista reported to the 71st Infantry Battalion sometime in August 2011.
He said that Bautista was very simple and approachable despite his stature as an officer. Their assignments to remote areas brought them closer as friends.
"He was both my mentor and close friend. We normally sleep and eat under the same tent deep in the forests," said Cantuba.
"He shared to me and my fellow enlisted personnel all military skills that he learned as a PMA cadet. He taught me how to navigate with a map and compass and also the use of the global positioning system (GPS) receiver."
Cantuba also said that they consider each other as brothers.
"He would buy a pair of shirt of same brand and color. The other one is for me. In rare occasions, I would also buy a pair of cheap shirts that I can afford so that I can give him in return."
He said that Bautista always motivated them to perform their jobs faithfully as they served the people in far-flung communities.
"Lt. Bautista was a strict disciplinarian especially when it comes to our engagement with the people. He did not want us to commit abuses against civilians."
After about 3 years of serving in different field assignments together, Bautista was transferred to Charlie Company of the same battalion, leaving Cantuba behind.
Despite the distance that separates them, they maintained their communication through cellular phone. They would consult each other about some personal problems and challenges at work.
"He called me during Christmas day to greet my wife Winchel and our two children. We agreed to meet after my vacation to receive a gift from him," said Cantuba who was in tears.
"The last time that we talked was at around 7:00 am on the day that he died. We are supposed to meet at our battalion headquarters later that day to handover the gift that he promised."
Cantuba felt the shock of his life when a colleague told him that the Executive Officer of Charlie Company was killed by NPA bandits in Mabini town.
"I was speechless because I couldn't believe the news. I volunteered to accompany the group that was tasked to recover them," he said.
When he saw the bullet-riddled body of his friend a few hours later, he felt like losing a dear brother.
"I couldn't help but cry because he was very close to my heart. I consider him part of my family," said Cantuba.
Like many other soldiers who are deployed in hinterland villages, Bautista and his men fell victim to the 46-year old internal armed conflict with fellow Filipinos.
While the CPP-NPA-NDF is floating an idea of resuming peace talks with the government, their armed wing has continuously mounted senseless attacks against unarmed members of the security forces during the government declared unilateral suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) during the yuletide season.
If they are indeed sincere in pursuing peace, they must stop committing crimes such as murdering off-duty soldiers.