“There is no let-up in extrajudicial killings with BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan.” – Karapatan
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – There were almost two activists killed every week for the month of August, human rights and indigenous peoples group said. The suspected perpetrators were soldiers, paramilitary groups, death squads and an official of a palm oil company.
“There is no let-up in extrajudicial killings with BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. The killing of typhoon relief workers and peasant leaders further exposes the contempt of this regime against those who are genuinely working for poor communities,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said.
Gildegardo Hernandez, leader of the peasant group Pamatid-CQ, was gunned down on Aug. 6 along Candelaria-San Juan Diversion Road in Candelaria, Quezon. He was waiting for a ride when a motorcycle-riding man shot him. The gunman was accompanied by another suspect on board another motorcycle.
Karapatan said that Hernandez already fell on the ground but the assailant fired more shots. He sustained gunshot wounds on his head, chest and face.
Hernandez was working on a relief operation for the survivors of Typhoon Glenda. A relief operation, in fact, was scheduled on Aug. 7, sponsored by the Southern Tagalog People Corps, the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan and Hernandez’ peasant group.
A week later, on Aug. 14, Marcel Lambon, a Higaonon and council member of the indigenous peoples group Pigyayungaan, was shot dead by men believed to be members of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.
Before his killing, Lambon was an active campaigner against the expansion of an oil palm plantation in their town, and was frequently visited by soldiers. The military also summoned him for questioning and branded him as a supporter of the New People’s Army.
Another relief worker Jefferson Custodio, 25, was gunned down by two men riding on a motorcycle on Aug. 23 at Punong village in Carigara, Leyte. The perpetrators wore ski masks, Karapatan said.
Custodio, a member of the Municipal Farmers Association in Carigara (MUFAC), was on his way to deliver farm tools to farmer-beneficiaries in the upland villages of Carigara when he was shot. Bullets pierced his arm and chest.
MUFAC, for its part, is involved in the rehabilitation of communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall. The said organization provided farmers with construction materials to rebuild their homes and seedlings and farm tools for their livelihood.
Earlier, on July 2, soldiers from the 78th Infantry Battalion and the Regional Mobile Group of the police came to Capoocan in Leyte, searching for members of Mufac. Soldiers eventually used the village hall and chapel as outpost. In their community meetings, soldiers reportedly prohibited residents from joining protest actions.
Vicente Hugo, chairperson of the Bicol Coconut Planters Association, Inc. was gunned down on Aug. 25, around 12 midnight, in Del Rosario village in Uson, Masbate.
Hugo, who was also the village captain in Arado, was active in the land dispute between farmers and former Congressman Antonio Kho, according to human rights group Karapatan – Bicol.
On Aug. 26, at around 11:30 a.m., Librado Adoptante Jr., coordinator of Bayan Muna in Baao, Camarines Sur, was shot three times by two motorcycle-riding men. Karapatan said Adoptante has long been under surveillance by members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and its paramilitary group the Civilian Armed Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
Adoptante, 46, was riding a habal-habal (motorcycle fitted with planks to accommodate passengers) with his wife Gemma and their 12-year-old daughter when they were stopped by men wearing ski masks and riding a motorcycle. They then shot Adoptante in the chest. One of the gunmen alighted from the motorcycle and shot him twice in the head, killing him instantly.
The police arrived at the scene of the crime half an hour later.
Karapatan – Bicol said Adoptante has long been a victim of red tagging by the military. Since 2006, members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and CAFGU had been going to their village looking for him. The last time that soldiers visited his home was in December 2013.
3 IPs killed in a week
Aside from Lambon, two other indigenous peoples were killed from Aug. 9 to 14, in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon.
On August 9, Armando Campos, a 42-year-old Manobo, was shot dead at 5:30 am in Ebro village, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Campos was among the farmers who wanted to reclaim the 4,000-hectare palm oil plantation land that they leased to the Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc. (FFPI) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,
Anecito Ortiz, manager of the FFPI, was reported to be one of the suspects,
Since July, farmers were reportedly being harassed by members of the FFPI.
On Aug. 10, in La Paz town, Agusan del Sur, another indigenous peoples leader Datu Roger Alaki was shot dead by a certain Berting Aldo, who reportedly belong to the Bagani Force, an indigenous paramilitary group formed by the military.
The Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization said residents of Mintakei, Lydia village in La Paz have long been victims of harassments from members of the Bagani Force and the 26th Infantry Battalion.
Leaders of Bagani Force were reportedly harassing residents and threatening them that they would launch a pangayaw or armed campaign against them if they refuse to sign a memorandum that would allow the Malampay mining company in their community.
Vince Casilihan, spokesperson of Karapatan-Bicol, said the recent killings show the ruthless legacy of impunity of the Aquino administration.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Casilihan said the killings are part of the military’s effort to silence critics of the government. No one, apart from the military, he added, would have the motive to do so.
Even with the arrest of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, dubbed as “the butcher” for gross human rights violations that were committed wherever he was assigned, Casilihan said the same is still happening now.
“Their bullets have already silenced 52 victims in Bicol region alone,” Casilihan said. The Bicol region has the highest number of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration.
“Indeed, feeding the ruthless AFP with guns only satisfy their craving for fresh blood of progressives,” Casilihan said. “Instead of rendering basic social services, the brutality of Aquino regime’s counterinsurgency program brings greater terror, hopelessness and insecurity for civilians.”