By Kimberlie Olmaya Ngabit-Quitasol
Reposted by Bulatlat.com
BAGUO CITY—It was raining hard last March 9 at five in the afternoon. The usual throng digging into boxes of wagwag (second-hand) goods for sale in this alley famous for second-hand items for sale was absent, but the vendors were hoping that buyers would come when the rains stopped. Just as the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings are hoping that one day, justice would be served for their departed loved ones.
In that same alley at 3rd Kayang street at the city public market, on March 9, 2005, at about the same time in the afternoon, Romeo Sanchez or Romy to most of his friends and colleagues, just like everyone crowding the wagwagan, was looking for clothes for his children. But he did not manage to bring the clothes home because on that day he was murdered.
Romy was then the secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Ilocos and coordinator of Bayan Muna Ilocos. He was also a broadcaster at DzNL radio in San Fernando City.
Romy was the first activist gunned down in Baguio City, the first victim of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Cordillera and Ilocos region under the administration of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). He is one of the more than a thousand EJK victims during GMA’s term as president from 2001 to 2010. He left behind a wife and five children.
Five years after, the vendors in the alley where he was murdered still remember that afternoon. Back then, they did not know who Romy was, or why he had to be gunned down in one of the most crowded areas of the city public market.
One vendor shared her experience on condition that that her name is withheld. She said she was tending to her goods that day when a scream silenced the usually loud crowd of buyers haggling for lower prices. She said it took sometime before Romy’s body was moved. She remembered that police officers and the media came to interview the vendors and asked them if they saw the perpetrators.
“But if you saw the perpetrator, would you find it easy to speak out? They easily kill people,” she said.
A vendor beside her joined in. “I was so frightened then. Even as we talk today I still get goose bumps,” she said. She also requested not to be named.
Another vendor who refused to be named remembered they lit candles and prayed for the victim after his body was taken away. She said they only came to know about him when groups staged several prayer rallies for him.
According to Rod Tajon of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), last December the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had identified a Denis Narte as suspect in Romy’s murder. Tajon said that the NBI had located Narte at a corporate firm where he was working as a sales agent, but the NBi did not arrest him.
Earlier in 2005, the police identified and filed charges against a certain Aries Binoya, the alleged gunman. But Binoya was never arrested, too.
Tajon said that to date, justice has not been served to Romy and the many other victims of EJK. He noted that in most cases no perpetrators were identified and in cases where suspects had been identified, they still remain at large. He added that witnesses are being harassed by the military and forced to withdraw their statements.
“Five years has passed. There has been a change of leadership in the government but the killings, abduction and injustices continue. The struggle is not over and we will continue to demand justice for the victims as we continue to fight for the full respect and protection of human rights,” Tajon said.
The rains stopped and true enough, potential buyers started coming in to dig at the second hand items for sale. The worries in the vendors’ faces subsided and they began flashing their best smiles as they beckoned prospective buyers to dig into their boxes. Just like the rains the memory of Romy and the other victims of EJK came intermittently, but according to those he left behind who visited the site where he was killed, “surely it will not fade. And the fight for justice shall continue.” Reposted by