BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Was Kerima Tariman a heroine? Someone who ought to be praised in death?
Or remembered as one who lured the youth to their senseless deaths and one whose example must not be followed?
The political tug of war over Tariman has begun and in polarized Negros island, opinions are swinging to both sides of the political extremes days after she was named by the rebels as one of two guerrillas who died in a firefight last week in Silay, a city only 26 kilometers north from this political and economic center.
The underground New People’s Army has heaped praises on Tariman, calling her “a renowned poet, writer and revolutionary artist who chose to share the life-and-death struggle of the masses of Negros Island. She gave up her life to serve the people and the revolution.”
To Cenon Pancito III, however, Tariman is an “enemy of the State,” one of the “notorious terrorists” operating in northern Negros who have been responsible for the “series of extortion and intimidation activities” on people and businesses, one of which is the burning of construction equipment in the Silay-EB Magalona town area.
The Army major, spokesman of the Third Infantry Division that commands thousands of soldiers in Negros island, said “no matter who they are in their personal capacity,” they are still “enemies of the State.”
The NPA has praised Tariman as one who offered her life to serve the masses but observers say at the center of the word war between the rebels and the government is the community itself in hacienda Raymunda, an upland agricultural area in the village of Kapitan Ramon in Silay City. (READ also: Army Apprehends 4 CPP-NPA Terrorists with High-Powered Firearms)
Silay, known as the “Paris” of Sugarlandia, is not only historic as a base for the local revolt against Spain in 1898, now known as the Al Cinco de Noviembre but also for the sugar mills that used to dot it.
Large sugar plantations owned by the hacendados used to be found in this city only 26 kilometers north of this political and economic center.
As Tariman’s cremated remains were given to her family over the weekend, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command (AGC) of the New People’s Army
lashed out at the military for the “murder” of Tariman.
The AGC is the highest military command of the NPA in Negros and claimed in a statement on its website that “(a)ccording to Ka Juanito Magbanua, AGC-NPA spokesperson, they received a picture of Tariman from a trusted source wherein she was still alive and had a gunshot wound on her arm.
“They found her alive but wounded after the encounter. The military finished her off when she could no longer fight back or they left Ka Ella to bleed to death?” said Magbanua.
This shows the barbaric character of the military and for sure they are after the reward they will receive, he added.
He further lambasted Major Pancito, 3ID spokesperson, for dishonoring Ka Ella’s legacy.”
Pancito, however, laughed off the claims of Magbanua.
He pointed out that the NPA itself admitted Tariman was a guerrilla and was, in effect, “a combatant” and was a legitimate battlefield target.
She was killed, not murdered, Pancito said.
(to be continued)