Seven years after soldiers killed his daughter, peasant-turned-activist Gregorio Galacio was killed by suspected military men at dawn on July 19.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “It is as if my daughter’s killing was not enough.” So lamented Pasing Galacio on the brutal killing of her husband Gregorio on July 19. Seven years ago, soldiers killed her nine-year-old daughter Grecil during military operations.
On July 19, at around 3:45 a.m., some eight to 10 armed men came to the Galacio house in Kahayag village, New Bataan, Compostela Valley. It was Gregorio who first awoke and asked who they were but no one answered. He then roused his wife and 13-year-old son to check who were knocking on the door.
When Pasing opened the door, the armed men, wearing bonnets, black shirts and fatigue shorts, asked for water. One of the men tried to knock off the flashlight from Pasing’s hand.
But while she reprimanded them and asked who they were, one of the men entered the house and went straight to their bedroom. The man went out and brought a companion in. Pasing and her children then heard the loud gunshots as the men fired at Gregorio.
Gregorio, 38, sustained eight gunshot wounds, all fatal, said Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan – Southern Mindanao Region. Suazo said Gregorio even attempted to scare off the intruders with his bolo. “But what could a bolo do against a gun?” she said.
“I am very saddened by his killing. I cannot understand what kind of justice system we have. At first, they killed my daughter and tagged her as NPA. And now, they brutally killed my husband,” Pasing told Bulatlat.com over the phone.
“Are they going to finish off the rest of our family? Why is the government seemingly singling us out?” Pasing said.
In 2007, the 67th Infantry Battalion claimed Pasing’s daughter Grecil Buya was a child combatant of the New People’s Army and was even firing an M-16 rifle when she was killed during military operations. They later on retracted after investigations proved their claims untrue.
Shortly after Grecil’s killing, Suazo said the Galacio family left Kahayag village after persistent harassment from members of the 28th IB, as the entire family had actively campaigned and demanded justice for Grecil. Suazo said the military even attempted to bribe the family with P20,000 to stop them from joining protest actions demanding justice for Grecil.
But the Galacio family had a hard time when they left their home. “Their livelihood was tied to the land they were tilling in Kahayag village,” Suazo said. In 2010, the family returned, hoping that they would not be harassed by the 66th IB.
“At first, they lived in peace. But starting last year, the soldiers began summoning Gregorio again to the village hall, which they have turned into a barracks,” Suazo said.
Gregorio did not disclose to his wife Pasing that he was repeatedly being summoned again by soldiers, but he told his mother Elizabeth, 59, and asked if she could come over.
The soldiers summoned Gregorio again a week before he was killed, Suazo said.
Pasing said her youngest daughter, only eight years old, was sleeping in their bedroom when the men barged in. She was awakened by the loud gunshots and witnessed how her father was killed.
“They gunned him down. I am scared,” the girl told Bulatlat.com over the phone.
Suazo said the girl heard the voice of one of the perpetrators and recognized him.
“We are still confirming but he is a known military asset in the community,” she said.
Suazo added that they suspect that the perpetrators are from the 66th Infantry Battalion, because “the family believes that no one else would have a motive to kill Gregorio.”
She said that the entire family, including Gregorio’s siblings, has long been victims of red-tagging by the military. Karapatan has long assailed the military for red-tagging activists and sympathizers, which usually precedes their being targeted by liquidation squads.
Elizabeth said Gregorio’s siblings could not attend his wake for fear that soldiers would harass them and falsely accuse them of being armed. “I raised my children well and they are all good people,” she said.
Suazo said that police arrived at the Galacio’s residence at around 10 a.m. on July 19 to conduct an investigation. The family has yet to hear the initial findings of the police but Karapatan – SMR said they will conduct an independent investigation.
“We are worried that they might whitewash the investigation,” Suazo said.
Pasing said she is worried about how her children would cope with the brutal killing of her husband, most especially her daughter who witnessed the killing.
She called on those who supported their fight for justice for Grecil to join them again now that they are demanding justice for husband Gregorio.
“Please help me in this fight,” she said.
Such injustice, impunity and the absence of lasting peace is “a solid ground to call for the ousting of President Aquino,” Suazo said.
Suazo added that the Galacio family, along with more than 5,000 others, would gather in a protest action on July 28, on Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, to call for accountability and his ouster.