“The motive behind his killing is political.” – Sr. Cecille Ruiz, Karapatan-Central Luzon
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The trial on the murder of Dutch missionary and environmentalist Willem Geertman finally began on Wednesday Nov. 19 at the San Fernando Regional Trial Court Branch 48, more than two years since his killing.
Sr. Cecille Ruiz of the human rights group Karapatan-Central Luzon was the first witness presented to the court.
Only one of the four suspects, Marvin Marzan Muguid, is in police custody at Pampanga Provincial Jail. Muguid was arrested in Mexico, Pampanga in March based on robbery charges, but police realized that he was also one of the two suspects in the Geertman killing.
The other suspect, the gunman identified as Harold dela Cruz, is still at large. Four other suspects remain unidentified.
Geertman, executive director of Alay Bayan Luzon Inc., was shot dead on July 3, 2012 in front of the NGO’s office in Telabastagan village in San Fernando, Pampanga.
The suspects, two motorcycle-riding men, had followed them from a bank up to the office, where the gunman first forced Geertman to kneel then, execution-style, shot him in the back of the head.
The suspects took his bag, which contained cash withdrawn from the bank and were intended as project funds.
Five months later, the Office of City Prosecutor in San Fernando issued a resolution recommending the filing of robbery with homicide against the suspects.
Geertman’s fiancée Maria Aurora Santiago, petitioned the Department of Justice to review the resolution, which consequently ruled to file charges of murder and robbery.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Ruiz said her testimony is proof that Geertman’s killing was not a mere robbery with homicide. The motive behind his killing is political, she added.
“We did not live in the convent. As missionaries, we have our own ways, which is to integrate with the farmers,” Ruiz recalled.
From 1979 to 1999, Ruiz and Geertman were among the missionaries who worked with peasant communities in Aurora province. Ruiz said they helped from planting to harvesting crops, and implementing socio-economic projects.
Ruiz later served as executive director of Alay Bayan. Geertman took over when she went to Karapatan.
Though they no longer worked closely, Ruiz said they were good friends.
Geertman, she added, had shared that he received death threats, and experienced surveillance and even red tagging from state forces.
“They would say that he is a communist and he must die,” Ruiz said, of one of the death threats against Geertman.
She said that the road to justice is far from sight.
Asked if she believes if justice would still be served, Ruiz let out a long sigh.
She said that, “under the prevailing system, justice is hard to come by. But we remain optimistic. We have a legal system but we will not rely on it 100 percent. It is still the mass movement that would bring us closer to justice.”