By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A few days before President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona), three more victims add to the growing list of political killings.
Roque Laputan, 59, a member of Anakpawis partylist, Davao del Sur, was murdered by unidentified men, July 10. Laputan, was at the forefront of protests against the operation of Xstrata-owned Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Davao del Sur and the company’s plan to put up a coal-fired plant here.
Laputan was in a store in Tagansuli village when two masked men on a motorcycle arrived, one of whom alighted, grabbed Laputan by the neck and shot him twice in the head. He died instantly.
Two residents of Pangarap Village in Caloocan City were killed when security guards opened fire at a vigil site set up by residents protesting against the demolition in the area. Soliman Gomez and Rommel Fortadez died and six others were injured.
The guards, who were allegedly drunk, were guarding the property owned by Gregorio Araneta III, a relative of newly-appointed Department of Transportation and Telecommunications secretary and Aquino’s running mate, Manuel “Mar” Roxas III.
“Killings continue just before Aquino delivers his second Sona. Does this tell us that the same policy of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings would continue for the next years of Aquino’s term?” Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, said. “We ask him, how many more?”
Reacting to announcements made by Malacañang that Pres. Aquino’s SONA will focus on his anti-corruption campaign report for the past year, Hustisya, an organization of families of victims of human rights violations, asked whether human rights is not an alarming issue for the Aquino administration.
“Didn’t he mention an end to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in his straight path? If this is so, why do killings continue?” Guevarra said.
During his first Sona, Aquino vowed to resolve cases of extrajudicial killings, citing the murder of Fernando Baldomero, a local councilor in Lezo, Aklan, among others.
One year after, the case was recently archived because the arrest warrant issued in January this year had not been served, according to Ernan Baldomero, son of the victim and Hustisya vice chairman. The suspect, Ernan said, has eluded arrest.
“We are raising the alarm not only because victims under the past administration have not been given justice, but most especially, killings continue under Aquino. Until when shall we wait for concrete action to stop the killings?” Guevarra asked.
According to Karapatan, there have been 48 victims of extrajudicial killings, not yet including the recent cases.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said they are seeking an inquiry into the incident in Pangarap Village, adding that the this is not the first time that security guards of Araneta-owned Carmel Development Inc. (CDI) indiscriminately fired at the residents. On April 28, three were injured in the shooting.
Carmel Development is claiming ownership of the 7,008-hectare area where the community is located. The area, almost half the size of Caloocan City, includes Pangarap Village that is part of “Tala Estate,” historically a leper colony as determined by Commonwealth Act 161. Anakpawis said the Aranetas want to clear the area, demolish the urban poor community and develop the area into a commercial center.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) filed a case (GR No. 187876) against CDI for illegally claiming the land. According House Resolution 1236 filed by Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Womens Party, Act Teachers Party-list and Kabataan Party, the DENR said CDI had failed to prove that it had fully paid for the land, which is supposedly part of the “Friar Lands,” “over which the Government holds the title and are not public lands but private or patrimonial property of the Government and can be alienated only upon proper compliance with Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act.”
Mariano said the violence at Pangarap Village adds to the series of bloody demolitions against urban poor communities. Other incidents of violent demolitions also took place in Sitio San Roque in Quezon City, Barangay Corazon de Jesus in San Juan City and Laperal Compound in Makati City. “Aquino’s neglect on the plight of the urban poor is evident in the series of violent demolitions under his watch.”