What started as an invitation to lunch by a persistent former colleague in the activist movement turned into an attempt on the life of the secretary-general for Southern Mindanao of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
By Grace S. Uddin
DAVAO CITY — It all started with a visit by a woman named Nene at around noon on Jan. 22. She invited Amancio Carmelo to lunch so they could catch up on old times.
Tatay Mancio, as Carmelo is known among friends and colleagues, told Nene that they were busy preparing for an anti-government demonstration in Tagum City that day in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre and that, given how busy they were preparing for the rally, going out for lunch was out of the question.
But the woman, whom Tatay Mancio recalled as having used the nickname Len in the past, was persistent. It’s been a while since they talked, she told him. Tatay Mancio had known Nene as a fellow organizer for a Lumad group in Montevista town, Davao del Norte, years back. He finally relented and agreed to meet with Nene after the rally.
Later that day, after having dinner with Nene at a restaurant, two men on a motorcycle tried to kill Tatay Mancio. The assassins missed, and the old man scampered away to safety. The woman disappeared. Tatay Mancio, in an interview with davaotoday.com, was convinced that the woman set him up.
Why would anybody want to kill Tatay Mancio can be explained by the fact that he is the secretary-general for Southern Mindanao of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, whose members and leaders have been among the victims of the series of political killings in the country.
According to human-rights groups, which have documented more than 800 such killings since 2001, the increasing use by assassins of former colleagues to lure potential victims to harm indicate that the killings are increasingly becoming more systematic, if desperate.
Although Tatay Mancio, who became a full-time peasant organizer in 1999, knew Nene, something about her request for a meeting bothered him, so that he went to their meeting place at the Landbank in Tagum earlier than schedule, to see if the woman was there and to check the place for security purposes.
To his surprise, Nene was there earlier than him. “I guess she already saw me first because when I spotted her, she immediately got off the motorcycle, which she said was being driven by her brother-in-law, and walked toward me,” Mancio narrated.
Mancio grew unseasy, so he suggested that they go to his office instead and talk there. But the woman declined and said they should have dinner at Elena’s Restaurant. During dinner, Nene asked about Tatay Mancio’s activities as well as those of his colleagues at the KMP.
After eating, Tatay Mancio noticed that Nene made excuses to delay leaving the restaurant. “I was becoming uneasy about her actions,” Tatay Mancio recalled, especially since, outside, a motorcycle parked near the restaurant.
Tatay Mancio decided that he better be the one to get a tricycle to get home. They tricycle was supposed to bring the two to the bus terminal in Briz district but a few meters from the terminal, Nene told the driver to stop. Nene and Tatay Mancio got off and the woman went to the tricycle driver to supposedly pay him. But Tatay Mancio said he noticed Nene looking not at the driver but at the road behind them. It was almost dark, at 6:30 p.m.
“She was trying to move away from me,” Tatay Mancio said. Cautious, he moved closer to her, thinking that that would prevent any attacker from shooting him.
“Since I was taller than her, I saw a single motorcycle approaching us, with two men on it,” Tatay Mancio narrated.
The motorcycle stopped a few meters from them and one of the men got off and pulled out a gun. “We stopped a few distances from the bus stop. There were no other people in the immediate vicinity so I was sure there was really no other target but me,” he said.
The gunman fired two shots but Tatay Mancio managed to duck and ran as fast as he could. “I ran very fast and shouted for help,” Tatay Mancio said. “I was already very tired but I told myself I must get back to the office.”