Who was Hannah Jay Cesista, the Bar Passer killed in Bohol clash?

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | February 26,2024 - 12:26 PM

Hannah Jay Cesista, Bar Passer killed in Bohol clash, who was she?

Hannah Jay Cesista | Contributed Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines — A Bar Passer was among those killed in the recent clash between state troops and suspected communist-rebel groups in Bohol.

The Visayas Command (VisCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed that among the six slain in the armed conflict in Bilar town, Bohol last February 23 was Hannah Jay Cesista, who passed the 2022 Bar Examinations, results of which were revealed the following year.

READ: ‘Top NPA leader,’ 4 others killed in shootout with law enforcers in Bohol

Initially reported as a lawyer but a quick check of her name on the Roll of Attorneys portal of the Supreme Court (SC) yielded negative results. Cesista appeared on the list of 2022 Bar Passers on SC’s website.

Government forces tagged Cesista, 26, as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), with the nicknames Maya/Lean. She joined the group sometime in 2023, according to VisCom.

Earlier media reports, quoting officials of the Philippine Army, revealed her alleged relationship with another NPA member who was also killed during the encounter last February 23.

Authorities expressed sadness and disappointment over Cesista’s death, adding it was ‘another life wasted through deception’.

READ: 6 alleged NPA fighters killed in Bohol clash

On the other hand, Cesista was remembered as a passionate youth activist, who wanted to practice law beyond the confines of the courtroom for the benefit of the downtrodden and marginalized.

Cesista hailed from Catubig town in Northern Samar.

She pursued her law career with a pre-law degree of Bachelor of Science (BS) in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Cebu (UP Cebu).

During college, she was active in various school organizations – from sociopolitical to religious ones like the Kabataan Partylist – UP Cebu, Cebu Students for Justice and Peace, and Youth for Christ – UP Cebu, according to UP Cebu’s student publication Tug-ani.

She graduated with flying colors, as a Cum Laude, in 2018 then proceeded immediately to take up law at the University of San Carlos (USC), also based in Cebu.

While studying law, she worked as a paralegal, assisting lawyers engaged in human rights.

READ: Bohol encounter: Police on full alert following clash with ‘NPA fighters’

The Cebu chapter of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) honored Cesista as one of the pioneers in forming the students’ arm of their organization that paved the way for aspiring lawyers to work and help victims of human rights violations, including political prisoners.

“She was always the first person to volunteer when lawyers needed assistance in the countless legal work of the organization. She joined community visits for paralegal trainings and discussions on human rights despite the demands of law school,” the group wrote in a statement.

READ: 3 battles between AFP, NPA in Negros Occ. kill 3 rebels, injure 3 troops

Call for investigations

When news of her death broke out, NUPL – Cebu Chapter as well as other cause-oriented groups like Karapatan Central Visayas and Anakbayan Cebu called for a probe.

They contradicted the accounts from the police and the army, claiming that what happened in Bohol was not an armed conflict but rather a slaughter, citing information from witnesses and residents in the area.

If proven, these would fall as violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), NUPL-Cebu added.

“NUPL Cebu expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Hannah. We call on the Philippine government to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation and to hold accountable the perpetrators responsible for the deaths of Bilar 5,” they said.

Aside from Cesista, the slain Maoist rebels were identified as Domingo Ompoc, Parlito Historia, Marlon Omosura, and Alberto Sancho.

According to NUPL-Cebu, some locals apparently saw the five escorted by soldiers, and told to roll in the muddy, paddy fields, which the group condemned as inhumane.

The clash

To recall, the clash in Bohol claimed a total of six lives, including that of a police officer. Another police was also wounded in the firefight.

The encounter stemmed from a police-led operation to serve an arrest warrant against Ompoc, who was tagged as the squad leader of the remnants of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) Bohol Party Committee (BPC) and the former commanding officer of Sandatahang Yunit Pangpropaganda (SYP) Platoon.

He was also considered a most wanted person in Bohol after rebellion, homicide, attempted homicide, multiple murders, frustrated murder, and robbery charges were filed against him.

Enforcers even placed a P2.6 million bounty on his head.

Police had been monitoring Ompoc and his group’s activities for more than a month. A successful intelligence gathering, including tip-offs from concerned residents, led to locating their whereabouts in Purok Matinan-ao Dos, Barangay Campagao.

One of those deployed in the operation against Ompoc was Police Corporal Gilbert Amper of the Provincial Intelligence Unit of the Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO).

Based on investigations from the police in Bohol, while their personnel went to Purok Matinan-ao Dos, Barangay Campagao, in Bilar, one of the rebels tried to resist and escape by firing a gun.

A bullet fired from the rebels’ side hit Amper on the head. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Amper’s companion, another police officer identified as Police Corporal Gerard Rollon, sustained bullet wounds.

The Philippine Army’s 47th Infantry Batallion eventually responded and intervened in the encounter, which lasted nearly three hours.

Residents there even managed to record the sounds of gunshots being exchanged in the jungles of Bilar town, videos of which also circulated on social media.

After the fight, soldiers recovered several high-powered firearms from the rebels, including three assault rifles – M653, R4, and an M16.

Both NUPL-Cebu and the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) are in mourning over the loss of lives in their camps.


On Saturday, February 24, a day after the bloody encounter, Cesista’s relatives retrieved her body from Bohol after positively identifying it was her, the VisCom said.

Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo, commander of VisCom, continued to urge rebels to return to the folds of law. He was also saddened over Cesista’s death, adding that she could have practiced law if not for the communist rebels.

“We express our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones. The CPP-NPA is indeed a menace and a mindless predator who preys on young minds in our country,” Arevalo said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and was established on March 29, 1969. It has been waging the longest-running Maoist insurgency in the world.

The clash in Bohol should also serve as a warning to those who want to join the insurgents, Arevalo added.

“We will forever remain committed to pushing the fight to end the local communist armed conflict here in the Visayas region. Lay down your arms now and return to the folds of the law while you still can,” he said. / with reports from Philippine Daily Inquirer, INQUIRER.net, Emmariel Ares

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