By RONALYN V. OLEA
After farm worker Benjamin Bayles was shot dead, Fred Caña, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros, exposed yet another case of extrajudicial killing. His advocacy for human rights and his exposé of cases of extrajudicial killings earned the ire of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In the middle of a radio program where Caña was being interviewed, a text message in the vernacular was sent to the radio program’s hotline warning Caña that he would be the 37th victim of extrajudicial killing in the province.
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. Implicated in Bayles’s killing are soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. In an interview with Bulatlat, Caña said the military unit in the province has been accusing him of being a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA). The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Caña’s name was always mentioned during the radio program 303rd Brigade Hour of the Philippine Army. “They would call me a fanatic of Joma [Sison] and then they would laugh aloud,” Cana said. Sison is the founding chairman of the re-established CPP.
Since 2004 when he started working for Karapatan, Caña said, he experienced all forms of harassment from the military. The last incidents compelled him to leave Bacolod City temporarily and compelled him to send his wife to live in another place.
In May, Sgt. Renato Savellano, a military intelligence officer, approached Caña’s sister-in-law Mildred Macaya, a teacher at a private school where Savellano’s child is enrolled. Caña said Savellano told her sister-in-law: “Do you know that your brother-in law and his wife are in the military’s order of battle? They are high-ranking officers of the CPP-NPA.” Macaya was also told that Caña and his wife Tess have been under constant surveillance and that a warrant of arrest would be issued against them. Savellano further told Macaya that his boss wanted him to silence Cana because the latter is noisy. Savellano then inquired about the couple’s educational attainment and told Macaya that he could make them earn P15,000 ($342) a month if they surrender. Savellano offered to talk to the couple if they decide to surrender. Savellano would sent text messages to Macaya asking about the couple. Worried, Macaya advised Caña and his wife Tess to stop their human rights advocacy.
Fred Caña(Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
Charges of grave coercion, unjust vexation and malicious mischief were filed against Caña by a land owner in Calatrava, Negros Occidental. “I know that the military instigated the filing of the charges against me,” Cana told Bulatlat. Three of the cases were already dismissed and the remaining charge, malicious mischief, is now at the Mediation Board.
The incidents, said Caña , forced his wife Tess to go abroad in July. On Oct. 5, Caña received a phone call from a mobile phone number 09994163935. The male caller introduced himself as Eman, his mother’s cousin from abroad who has gone back to the country. “Eman” asked Caña where he was and said he wanted to meet him. Caña then remembered Eman’s mother and asked him about her but the line was cut off. The man called again and continued to ask Caña about his personal circumstances and was quite evasive when asked about his mother. When Caña persisted, the call was ended. Bothered by the caller’s reaction, Caña called up his aunt for verification. He was shocked when his aunt told him that his real cousin Eman had just called the previous day from abroad. “Later, I found out that the number used by the caller is the same number used by a certain 1st Lt. Salita of the 62nd IB who called me up two weeks ago,” Caña said. “Clearly, they wanted to know where I am.”
Asked what keeps him going, Caña said: “This has been my life, fighting for human rights. I just could not stop.”