A human rights lawyer who is now with the United Nations urges the head of the Philippine National Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) to cause the immediate arrest and prosecution of a Mountain Province official identified as a suspect in the killing of a human rights worker.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila)– A human rights lawyer who is now with the United Nations urges the head of the Philippine National Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) to cause the immediate arrest and prosecution of a Mountain Province official identified as a suspect in the killing of a human rights worker.
Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas said that Mateo or Mathew Fanao was charged of a heinous crime 15 years ago and has managed to remain at large and sit as a public official continuously evading prosecution.
Molintas was recently appointed as member of the Expert Mechanisms on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
In a letter he sent last week to Cordillera Police Chief S/Supt. Eugene Gabriel Martin, Molintas said Fanao is a co-accused in the killing of human rights worker Christopher L. Batan in February 1993 in Betwagan, Sadanga, Mountain Province. A warrant of arrest for Fanao was issued by a Regional Trial Court here but until now it has not been served, according to reliable sources.
Freely roaming around
“Fanao is reportedly roaming freely at Betwagan, Sadanga and was even elected as Barangay Captain and now president of the Association of Barangay Captains (in Sadanga) sitting as councilor,” added Molintas in his letter, which was also sent to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
Other sources say that Fanao is attending Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) meetings and regularly receives his salary. Nordis tried to reach both the Sadanga mayor and the vice-mayor through text messaging to verify the allegations but did not get any response.
According to other sources, including those from the DILG-Cordillera Administrative Region (DILG-CAR), Fanao was also elected as vice-president of the Mountain Province federation of the Association of Barangay Captains. He has never been arrested by the PNP despite a warrant of arrest issued by a judge of a Regional Trial Court here.
The history of the case shows Batan and two companions went to Betwagan in 1993 to conduct a research on human rights violations committed under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos but were sprayed with bullets by five members of the para-military Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
Only Batan was killed during the said shooting, while his two companions survived and became witnesses. The case was transferred to this city when a conflict erupted between the accused Betwagan tribe and the victim’s Lias (Barlig) tribe. Two of the co-accused were arrested and convicted afterwards.
Last year, one co-accused surrendered while Fanao and his remaining companion remain at-large.
Nordis learned from Molintas that a brother of the victim approached the regional director of the DILG to seek assistance for the arrest and prosecution of Fanao but was informed that the said office could not act on the issue and instead recommended the assistance of the PNP.
The PNP provincial director said that Fanao could not be located in the area.
“We sent copies of his (Fanao’s) warrant of arrest to all the stations Cordillera-wide for their appropriate action,” Martin said when asked of the PNP’s next move in serving the arrest warrant issued for Fanao. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)