Rights Groups Blame Killings on Military’s Oplan Bantay Laya

The murder of Nardo bore all the trademarks of a death squad operation, she said.

In at least three cases, the victims of failed assassinations have identified their hit men as soldiers or members of the military intelligence units.

In Misamis Occidental for example, Rev. Marilou Tinambacan identified the killers of her husband Rev. Jemias Tinambacan on May 9 as a certain Mamay Guimalan, an identified military intelligence agent. Tinambacan said Guimalan and two others rode a black and blue DT Yamaha-Type motorcycle when they attacked her and her husband.

Knowing the enemy

Padilla said the intensity of the implementation of Bantay Laya was seen last year after the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) presented to the media the controversial powerpoint “Knowing the Enemy.”

The powerpoint presentation declared the then three-month old strike of farm and mill workers of Hacienda Luisita as a “matter of national security” and named leaders and supporters of the strike as fronts of the CPP in the vast sugar plantation.

Hacienda Luisita is owned and operated by the influential Cojuangco clan of Tarlac province in Central Luzon. Luisita farm and mill workers staged a strike on Nov. 6, 2004 after Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations bogged down. Ten days after, police and military men opened fired on strikers to disperse the picketline, killing seven farm workers and wounding more than a hundred.

In early 2005, two staunch supporters of the strike were also killed. Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera was shot at the chest by a hitman on board a van at high noon of March 3 a few meters away from the NolCom headquarters along the McArthur hi-way. Ten days later, on March 13, Aglipayan priest William Tadena was ambushed by motorcycle-riding men wearing ski-masks in Barangay Guevarra, La Paz, Tarlac.

Striking workers were even more shocked on Oct. 25 last year when the mill workers’ union president Ricardo Ramos was shot in the head by suspected soldiers who manned the military detachment a few meters away from where Ramos was killed.

The soldiers were later identified as Roderick Dela Cruz and Romeo Castillo. Dela Cruz is known in the hacienda by the name of “Joshua” while Castillo introduced himself as “Rolly,” according to witnesses of the Ramos murder.

But the NolCom denied the accusation. Instead, it pointed to the CPP as the culprit. In fact, after a court case was filed against the soldiers, a letter allegedly from the Josepino Corpuz Command of the NPA Central Luzon was submitted in court by the Nolcom. In the letter, the NPA admitted having killed Ramos.

However, in a statement issued to media, the NPA Command denied having issued the letter and said the military is evading its accountability in the murder and is using the NPA as scapegoat.

Even before the Luisita killings, in 2002, Army Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jose Mabanta claimed that a second wave of purge within the CPP was responsible for the spate of killings and abductions of activists and their supporters in Southern and Central Luzon.

In 2005, police investigations again pointed to the CPP-NPA as responsible for the murder of Romeo Sanchez who was killed in Baguio City on March 9, and the assassination attempt on Atty. Charles Juloya in Aringgay, La Union. The police likewise blamed the CPP-NPA for the disappearance of Danilo Macapagal in Nueva Ecija and the Viray brothers in Pampanga.

Early this year, the March 17 killing of union leader Tirso Cruz inside Hacienda Luisita was also blamed by the Nolcom on the NPA.

Who’s the culprit?

Hilao-Enriquez, a survivor of Martial Law, alleged that the military is using the so-called CPP purge as a scapegoat.

“The families of the victims who have come to seek our help point to the military as the perpetrators. None of our clients suspect the NPA as the ones responsible for the death or disappearance of their kin,” she said.

Eduardo Diansuy, Public Information Officer of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said that their investigations arrived at the same results.

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