By EDMUND B. SESTOSO
DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — The progressive Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Central Visayas has urged the Philippine Senate to conduct an investigation into the murder of Negros Oriental peasant leader Fermin Lorico.
Earlier, KMP affiliate Kapunungan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmayng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (Kaugmaon, or Association of Small Farmers of Oriental Negros) pinpointed the 79th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army as the culprit behind Lorico’s murder last June 10, 2009, in San Jose Extension in Dumaguete City.
Nick Abasolo, chairman of KMP Central Visayas, urged Senator Francis Escudero, the chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, to conduct an inquiry on the death of Lorico and recommend possible punitive measures against the perpetrators.
On the other hand, while the militant group was elated by the statement of Senator Mar Roxas condemning the murder, it urged the legislator to go beyond issuing statements and initiate moves in the Senate that will shed light on the death of the peasant leader.
Roxas, an apparent 2010 presidential aspirant, was earlier interviewed by a local television network while attending ceremonies for the 111th Independence Day upon the invitation of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
“If they can investigate a sex video scandal, we don’t see any reason why they can’t probe on the brutal death of Ka Fermin and other farmers in Negros Island,” Abasolo in a statement issued to the members of the media. “The death of Ka Fermin and other farmers whose only crime is fight for genuine land reform and oppose Malacañang’s cha-cha scheme is more scandalous than Katrina-Hyden sexcapade.”
The human-rights alliance Karapatan in Central Visayas said it would also conduct its own investigation into the killing.
“We will conduct our own investigation because it has been proven that these so-called task-force bodies created by the PNP are merely instruments to cover up the culpability of state forces,” Vimarie Arcilla, a Karapatan spokesperson, said.
She added that even the Task Force Usig created by President Arroyo to investigate extrajudicial killings has lost its credibility before the public and international community because of its investigations that tended to clear state security forces allegedly behind the murders.
Karapatan disclosed that even before Lorico was summary executed, there were documented cases of threats, intimidations and harassments perpetrated by the elements of the 79th IB against him. Lorico was the chairman of Kaugmaon.
“No less than Col. Ceasar Yano vilified Lorico and his organization before the public,” she said.
“If the PNP is really sincere in solving Lorico’s case, they should first investigate Col. Ceasar Yano, Lt. Col. Neri and the 79th IB. The motive is clear and all evidence points to the 79th IB as culprits. And the PNP should first ask themselves why the killers are so confident to do it near a police station.” Arcilla said.
Meanwhile, Karapatan dared Lani-o Nerez, the newly appointed police regional director in Central Visayas, to prioritize the investigation into Lorico’s murder.
Karapatan issued the challenge to Nerez because of what it feared as another possible “white-wash investigation” into the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the region.
The group said five activists have already been executed in Negros Oriental this year alone and yet, there “has been no concrete action, nor a whimper of condemnation, from local executives and especially from the Regional Peace and Order Council.”
It added that the immediate resolution of the assassination of Lorico should be a test case for Nerez himself, who has been accused of having “a tainted human-rights record.”
“Let us see if Nerez has abandoned his old habits,” said Dennis Abarrientos, secretary-general of Karapatan-Central Visayas.
Abarrientos recalled that Nerez rose to notoriety as an officer of the 341st Philippine Constabulary Company, which terrorized unionists in Atlas Mining in Toledo City from 1986 onwards.
“Nerez recruited and armed vigilantes, notably the fanatical, anti-communist groups Kadre and NAD, which in turn incurred gruesome cases of human-rights violations”, he added.
“Nerez must prove that he has left these practices in the past by confronting the injustices of the present. For a start, he must openly renounce these extrajudicial killings, issue a policy statement against law-enforcers espousing vigilante-style law enforcement, and investigate the 79th IB for the murder of Fermin Lorico,” Abarrientos said. (Bulatlat.com)