CL: From Rice Fields into ‘Killing Fields’?

8 political killings reported since September

Eight politically-motivated killings have been reported in Central Luzon in just over a month. The cases have been reported in the aftermath of the assignment of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City in Nueva Ecija, Central Luzon.


Eight politically-motivated killings have been reported in Central Luzon in just over a month. The cases have been reported in the aftermath of the assignment of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City in Nueva Ecija, Central Luzon.

Human rights groups fear that with Palparan at the helm of the military in the region, a crackdown has been put in place – similar to the campaigns of suppression that had happened in Mindoro and Eastern Visayas where the controversial general spent long stints as Army commander. Upon his assignment in Eastern Visayas in February this year, he vowed to stop the communist rebellion in six months.

The general has been accused by rights watchdogs and peasant organizations as the “Butcher of Mindoro.” He has also been investigated by the justice department, Commission on Human Rights and Congress.

“Terror” in four provinces


The latest victim was Rolando Mariano, 53, leader of the Anakpawis (toiling masses) party-list chapter in Gerona, Tarlac (138 kms north f Manila). He was also the municipal coordinator of Bayan Muna (People First) in Victoria, Tarlac (141 kms from Manila) and former head of the Tarlac Electric Cooperative 1 (Tarelco) Employees Union.

Mariano was shot at 9 a.m. last Oct. 7 by three unidentified men on a motorcycle while on his way to the Tarelco 1 field office in Poblacion, Victoria, Tarlac. Mariano was on board the company vehicle with four others.

According to an Anakpawis statement, Mariano sustained seven bullet wounds – five on the chest, two on the back. He died on the spot but his body was still brought to the Talon General Hospital in Tarlac City. Fact-finding investigations on Mariano’s death are ongoing, human rights workers from Karapatan-Tarlac reported.

Nueva Ecija

In Nueva Ecija, three leaders have also been killed.

Last Sept. 12, Reiner “Alvin” Cusio, 33, was abducted by armed men in Guimba (153 kms north of Manila). He was the chair of the Ugnayan ng Magsasaka ng Pasong lntsik and San Rafael (Umagpas, Association of Farmers in Pasong Intsik and San Rafael), a local affiliate of the Alyansa ng Magsasaka sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Alliance of Farmers in Central Luzon). These farmers, including Cusio, are beneficiaries and petitioners of Hacienda Gabaldon in Barangay (village) Pasong Intsik.

Witnesses said Cusio was last seen being forced by armed men to enter a dirty white, Revo-type vehicle with plate number WLT 753. His body was found the following day in Barangay (village) Kalikid, Cabanatuan City (115 kms north of Manila).

Residents also reported that after the 71st Infantry Batallion’s (IB) camp under Lt. Virgilio Viterbo was set up in Pasong Intsik, the soldiers allegedly started harassing the farmers of Barangays Manggang Marikit, Bagong Baryo and Yuson (Mambuyo). The farmers were also beneficiaries of the said hacienda.

Three weeks later, Bayan Muna local leader Celia Esteban, 54, was abducted allegedly by soldiers last Oct. 2 at around 7 p.m. from her residence in Barangay Lennec, Guimba, also in Nueva Ecija.

Ranalyn, 15, the victim’s daughter, said that her mother was resting in their house after an ulcer attack on the night of Oct. 2 when abducted by a man and a woman who pretended to be relatives. Esteban was dragged out of the house and forced to enter a light blue van with plate number WKI 059.

Esteban’s relatives also noted that soldiers of the 71st IB visited her house four times last September, accusing her of being on the military’s Order of Battle. The 71st IB patrols Guimba and Cuyapo towns as part of their Reengineered Special Operations Team (RSOT) program, the relatives said.

Her body was found only last Oct. 6 in neighboring Tarlac province.

At around 9:45 p.m. on the same day of Esteban’s abduction, Anakpawis municipal coordinator Armando Javier, 36, was shot dead inside his home in Barangay Sta. Clara, Cuyapo, less than a kilometer away from Guimba. He sustained nine gunshot wounds.

The walls and some houses in Guimba were also painted with, “Kung ikaw ay supporter ng NPA, ikaw na ang susunod (If you are a supporter of the NPA, you are already next.)


Jose Levimar Rieza, a resident of Bgy. Tala Orani Bulacan was killed by still unidentified assassins last Sept. 24. According to the autopsy report, Rieza sustained 11 shots from a .45 caliber pistol.

A few days before his death, soldiers had taken pictures of Rieza, who was then working in the Jing Co farm. They chided him, “Ikaw nga ang gustong-gusto kong kunan ng picture (you are the one whose picture I really like to take).” The soldiers also took pictures of his wife who was there at that time.

On Sept. 27 in nearby Barangay Pag-asa of the same town, Mario Tuvera was arrested allegedly by soldiers belonging to the 24th IB. His 12-year old son who was with him scavenging at that time saw his arrest. He was found dead two days later in a nearby dam.

A fact-finding mission was organized by the Central Luzon chapter of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) to investigate the twin killings. The mission, however, did not expect that another killing was about to take place.

On Oct. 1, tricycle driver Edmer Rufino was shot dead allegedly again by soldiers. He was reportedly killed after a heated argument with a soldier allegedly for driving the pick-up vehicle of the fact-finding mission team.


Last Sept. 13, Leodegario Punzal, leader of Anakpawis Partylist in Norzagaray, Bulacan was killed by armed men while working on his shop. Eleven days earlier, 20-year old Ferdinand Viola, a tricycle driver, of Gulod Pinaod, San Ildefonso, Bulacan (66 kms from Manila), was wounded in a crossfire between armed groups in Barangay Maasim of the same town.

Viola, who managed to run away from the encounter, was shot in the back, however. He was brought to the San Miguel Emergency Hospital for treatment, where he was arrested by the police even without a warrant.

After a murder case was filed against him, Viola was taken to the Bulacan provincial jail where he is currently detained.


Meanwhile, 60-year old Perla Rodriguez, farmer, of Barangay Divisoria, Mexico, Pampanga, and her 33-year old daughter Jacqueyn were allegedly harassed and threatened by four soldiers of the 69th IB last Sept. 22.

Jacqueyn said the military suspected her mother of being a member of the NPA. Perla’s peasant organization, Aguman daring Maglalautang Capampangan (AMC or Alliance of Kapampangan Farmers), was also suspected to have links with the NPA.

From rice fields to killing fields

In a privilege speech last Oct. 4, Anakpawis Party-List Rep. Rafael Mariano condemned the spate of killings, saying “Central Luzon’s rice fields have been turned into killing fields!”

Mariano, a Novo Ecijano farmer, held Palparan responsible for these killings and asked for his removal from the region, an investigation of the cases and his prosecution.

Meanwhile, Joseph Canlas, Alyansa ng Mgabubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) chair and Anakpawis regional coordinator, told Bulatlat that the “terror” that is being felt in their region at present is the same pattern of the horror experienced by the people in the Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas regions where Palparan was previously assigned.

Canlas also criticized Palparan’s denial of being responsible for the killings and other human rights violations. He said that aside from the patterns of killings and abductions, these “terrors” happen in every place under Palparan’s leadership.

Although living in fear, Canlas said that nothing can stop them from fighting for justice.

Church and rights groups and other organizations are planning to hold a forum, a dialog with the military and protest actions in the days ahead.

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