Bayan Muna’s Jariz Vida survived two assassination attempts. But in a twist of fate, he had to post bail and face charges of frustrated murder filed against him by soldiers from the 9th Infantry Division.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Looking thin and pale, 30-year old Jariz Vida spoke softly of his travails as secretary general of the partylist Bayan Muna (People First) chapter in the province of Camarines Sur.
Vida said he decided to spend a week in Metro Manila to get some “fresh air” and a much needed break from the turmoil back in his hometown.
As an officer of Bayan Muna, Vida has not been spared by the political persecution being conducted by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration targeting political activists and their supporters. Bayan Muna is the organization with the most number of members and supporters killed. To date, 118 of its members have been killed since 2001, 25 of whom were killed this year alone. As of end September, 762 activists have been killed since 2001 out of which 152 were killed this year.
He had just posted bail for P40, 000 ($799.84) on Sept. 12 after 17 days of incarceration. He was charged by the 9th Infantry Division with frustrated murder for allegedly being part of a New People’s Army (NPA) team that engaged government soldiers in a fire fight on July 14, 2004 in Bicalen, Presentacion. Media reports said a soldier was wounded in the encounter and this, Vida said, was used as basis by the military of the case against him.
“Nuon pa pinagi-interesan ang buhay ko. Hindi nila ako mapatay kaya sinampahan na lang nila ako ng kaso,” (They have been trying to destroy my life. When they could not kill me, they just filed a case against me.) Vida told Bulatlat in an exclusive interview.
Vida said he survived two attempts on his life, the first on Dec. 3, 2005 right inside his home and the second on April 6 right after a protest rally and in broad daylight in Naga, the capital of Camarines Sur.
On Dec. 3, an unidentified man wearing a helmet and jacket on board a motorcycle fired two shots at his house in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Milaor, same province. The gunman aimed at Vida’s younger brother, Solomon, 27. Vida said the gunman probably thought Solomon was him because they had almost the same built, color and features.
Since Solomon was able to run inside the house, Vida said the gunman chased his brother but turned around upon seeing that there were plenty of people inside the house.
Vida said he was not around at that time. He said he has not gone home for a long time because of the threats he has been receiving prior to the incident.
The second attempt on Vida was close. Around 2 p.m. when he and other leaders of progressive groups were about to end their rally, two unidentified men riding a motorcycle arrived in front of the Naga City bus terminal where the protesters were resting. Vida, who was about five meters away from the motorcycle riding men, said he saw one of the men going near the protesters. Vida said he then saw the man pulling a gun from his pocket. Sensing danger, Vida said he shouted, “May baril! May baril!”(He has a gun! He has a gun!)
The protesters scampered away but the gunman was able to shoot hitting Nicanor Briones, president of a sugar workers’ union. Briones sustained six gun shot wounds on his body. He was rushed to the hospital and luckily survived.
Since 2001, the provincial chapter of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) has recorded 35 individuals killed, the latest of whom was Christian Luna, coordinator for Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party list in Del Gallego town. Luna was gunned down Sept. 16.
Vida said he also serves as a radio commentator since the year 2000 for Pamana ng Lahi, a block-time program that airs every Sunday, 11-12 noon at dzGE 855 khz. The radio program is a commentary on the urgent political and economic issues facing the people of the Bicol region. Camarines Sur is one of six provinces in Bicol.
Lt. Col. Serafin Raymundo, spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division (ID), has actually filed several libel cases against Vida due to his commentaries on air.
Vida said he was arrested on Aug. 27 at around 2 p.m. when he arrived home after the radio show.
Vida was also one of the signatories in the impeachment complaint filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on July 3. The complaint was one of eight cases filed against the president this year. Like last year’s impeachment complaint, these were dismissed by the Lower House as well.
Vida said he looks forward to going back to his hometown. But, he said, he knows he would be hunted down again by members of the military’s death squads.
But he remains undaunted. He said, “Alam kong hindi nila ako titigilan dahil alam nilang hindi rin ako titigil sa pakikipaglaban.” (I know that they will not leave me in peace because I will not stop from participating in the struggle.) Bulatlat