The killing of labor leader Samuel Bandilla last Oct. 15 places at 20 the number of militant leaders slain in Eastern Visayas under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
By MAUREEN JAPZON
TACLOBAN CITY – It was 10 p.m. last Oct. 15 when Samuel “Sammy” Bandilla was felled by assassins’ bullets in the vicinity of Barangay 65, Paseo de Legaspi, Anibong District, Tacloban City, Leyte province. His companion, Engr. Bernardo Devaras of the Leyte Metropolitan Water District Employees Association (LMWDEA), was wounded but survived.
The incident occurred at the height of LMWDEA’s protest against the alleged arbitrary termination by LMWD general manager Engr. Ranulfo Feliciano of 26 employees. The group had just erected their picket at 3 a.m. that same day.
According to Devaras, he and Sammy just left the picketline, taking a motorcycle to go to Sammy’s house in another part of the city. When they reached Paseo de Legazpi (Legazpi Pass), which was almost two kilometers away from the picket area, a speeding Aura-type black vehicle with no plate number positioned parallel to the motorcycle and two gunshots were heard. The motorcycle they were riding lost balance and fell down.
Upon seeing his companion hurt, Devaras immediately called through his cellphone his co-worker Salvador Cortez who was among those manning the picketline. According to Cortez, the call came at 9:49 p.m.
The two were rushed to the hospital along with elements of the Tacloban Philippine National Police (PNP) who arrived at the area.
Sammy was declared dead on arrival at the St. Paul’s Hospital. He sustained two gunshot wounds in the left side of his back, near the scapula and piercing his lungs.
Devaras sustained a single gunshot wound in the upper left-portion of his back and is still being treated at the hospital as of this writing.
According to Raffy Tarroza, the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU) Eastern Visayas regional chairperson, Sammy had been “a militant leader and true leader of the exploited masses.”
According to him, Sammy’s union activism started when he was working at the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Company (PASAR) in Isabel, Leyte. Later, he was elected president of the Concerned Organization of PASAR Employees for Reform (COPPER) from 1988-1999.
He was terminated from PASAR for his union activities but did not stop Sammy from helping organize other unions. Soon he became Eastern Visayas regional coordinator of NAFLU-KMU from 2000-2003.
Sammy also became a convenor of the Alliance of Water Concessionaires (ALWACON), is a strong critic of the corruption and anomalies in LMWD.
Until his death, he was the Director for the Commission on Popular Struggle of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Eastern Visayas and regional coordinator of Anakpawis party-list.
“Waray personal kaaway hi Sammy kundi nagin maupay ngan susbaranan hiya nga lider ngan suok ha masa nga iya ginhalaran han iya kinabuhi” (Sammy had no personal enemies. He was a model leader and very close to the masses for whom he laid his life for), Tarroza stressed.
“Biktima hi Sammy han grabe nga atake han Arroyo administration nga ha yana nag-iimplementar han Operation Plan (OPLAN) Kalinaw Bisayas nga waray lain nga target kundi an mga militante nga organisasyon (Sammy was a victim of the attacks of the Arroyo administration’s Operational Plan ‘Peace in the Visayas’ that targets militant organizations),” said Vincent Borja, Anakpawis regional chairperson.
Borja revealed that contacts in the intelligence community have been warning them that some of their regional and local leaders are in the military’s Order of Battle (OB). The warnings coincided with the series of harassments, surveillance and death treats they have been receiving.
“Based on circumstantial evidences gathered at this point, we are critical on the idea of connivance between PNP and the LMWD management where the military was the brain of that operation,” said Alex Lagunzad, secretary-general of Katungod Eastern Visayas.
Local human rights organization Katungod is conducting an independent investigation on the incident.
Meanwhile, Lito Ustares, Anakpawis national vice-chairperson for Luzon and KMU national vice president, strongly asserts that the Arroyo administration’s program to wipe out the national democratic movement “plays a major role with the killings and harassments experienced not only here in Eastern Visayas but in the other regions as well.”
Calling for renewed vigilance
The frail-looking but militant Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida, Anakpawis national vice-chairperson, almost brought the listeners to tears during the wake of the fallen labor leader at Metropark Memorial Chapels in Sagkahan District this city.
She said, “Dapat nating tularan si Ka Sammy. Di tayo dapat magpasupil kaninuman sapagkat tayo ang lilikha ng ating kasaysayan at tayo rin ang magtitirik ng ating bandila ng kalayaan” (We must look up to Sammy’s example, we must not be cowed by anybody. We will shape our own history and erect our flag of liberation).