‘Punish Soldiers Who Killed Negros Labor Organizer,’ Aquino Told

The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which often dismiss accusations that soldiers are involved in extrajudicial killings, admitted that the suspected perpetrators in the extra judicial killing of Bayan Muna Negros member Benjamin Bayles are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP). But this happened, Karapatan said, only after their own investigation revealed the true identities of the suspects.


MANILA – Last week, Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin admitted during the Department of National Defense budget deliberations that the two men arrested for the extra judicial killing of Bayan Muna Negros member Benjamin Bayles are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP).

Bayles, organizer of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was murdered in broad daylight on June 14 at around 4:30 p.m. at barangay (village) Su-ay, Himamaylan City. Two suspects with .45 caliber pistols were arrested at a Philippine National Police (PNP) checkpoint in barangay 1 of Kabankalan City. The two arrested introduced themselves as Roger Bahon and Ronnie Caurino.

“This is a slap on Noynoy’s face, especially since, in his first 100 days as president, he has been courting the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and has been diverting the public’s attention from the continuing human rights violations,” Roneo Clamor, acting secretary general of Karapatan, said.

In an interview, Clarissa Singson-Dagatan, legal staff of Karapatan-Negros, said they discovered the real identities of the perpetrators because of their own investigation.

Bahon is Private 1st Class Reygine Laus of the 61st IB, PA from barangay (village) Bunga, Mambusao, Capiz Province. The accused Caurino is also a Private 1st Class of the 61st IB. Karapatan was able to identify the two through a picture taken on June 18 during the inquest at the city prosecutor’s office at Himamaylan City.

Dagatan added that the motorcycle used in the Bayles killing was registered under plate number 7BD718 at the Land Transportation Office under the name of Laus dated August 9, 2009. It was bought at the DUEK SAM outlet in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.

Fred Cana,Karapatan-Negros secretary general, said the police, in an attempt to protect the perpetrators, declared that the paraffin test and ballistic test conducted on the two suspects did not point to them as the perpetrators.

Christian Tuayon, spokesman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros challenged President Benigno S.Aquino III investigate the commanding officers of the the 3rd Infantry Divison and 303rd Infantry Brigade who “planned the killings, tried to mislead the investigation, and cover up the identities of Laus and Caurino for almost four months.

Murder charges have been filed against the perpetrators. They are now detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Bago City,Negros Occidental. The two pleaded innocence during the arraignment last September.

“This case once again proves that extrajudicial killings are part of state policy,” Cana said, adding that this is not the first time that state agents were positively identified as suspects in the killings.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said they would also file charges against the commanding officer of the 61st Infantry Batallion before the Ombudsman for obstruction of justice by misinforming the court and the DOJ (Department of Justice) when they falsely claimed that both men are not members of the AFP. “Although, Gen. Jose Mabanta said during the budget deliberations that their admission of the identities of the two suspected perpetrators shows that the AFP will no longer tolerate the involvement of its personnel in extrajudicial killings and that the AFP will provide us with the documents we will need including a certification that these two are indeed members of the Army, we will see whether this cooperation is actually forthcoming,” he said.?

The pre-trial is set on Oct. 27.

Karapatan also also called on the Aquino government to investigate and prosecute the masterminds behind the 16 victims of extrajudicial killing under his watch, and more than 1,000 victims under the Arroyo regime. (Bulatlat.com)

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