Stop the killings

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

We’ve entered the first of the “ber” months. For the many who are holiday-obsessed this may evoke merry thoughts of bells tinkling, of gift-shopping, of Christmas approaching.

It’s a different picture, unfortunately, for human rights defenders, progressive organizations, journalists, and indigenous peoples particularly in Mindanao. Dark prospects cast shadows over this September – intensifying militarization, political repression, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights violations. These could heighten nationwide in the last nine months of the Aquino administration.

Thus the twin cries of “Never again to martial law!” and “Stop the killings!” today remain as relevant and apt as ever, when we remember, on Sept. 21, the declaration of martial law by Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1972.

Yes, stop the killings! Under P-Noy’s watch there have already been 279 recorded extrajudicial killings and 294 frustrated EJKs (from six in the first month of his term). These figures, from Karapatan, do not include all of the 29 journalists slain under this Aquino government. (Since the Cory Aquino administration, 171 journalists have been killed, of which only 13 cases have been deemed resolved.)

From Aug. 1 to Sept. 1 alone Karapatan recorded 15 civilians summarily killed in the following incidents:

• Aug. 3, in Barangay Del Carmen, Uson, Masbate: Adam Fajardo, 34; Joebert Badillo, 27; Gary Vistar, 37 (all “habal-habal” or tricycle drivers), and Rogelio Abelida, 26 (son of a barangay head) were accosted and shot dead by a joint team of the Philippine Army 9th Infantry Battalion and the PNP. The victims had been directed by Abelida’s father to assist a group of wounded soldiers.

• Aug. 8, Arnel Morada, 36, coordinator of Anakpawis party-list in Camarines Sur, was killed allegedly by soldiers of the 49th IBPA. Early this year the police had filed trumped-up charges against him.

• August 18, suspected members of the 57th IBPA fatally shot Joel Galmatico, 58, chairman of the Arakan Progressive Peasant Organization in North Cotabato. He had consistently opposed the militarization of peasant communities..

• August 18, in sitio Mandun, Brgy Mendis, Pangantukan, Bukidnon: Five Manobo farmers (all blood-related, two of them minors) just had lunch together in the house of Herminio Samia when soldiers from the PA’s 3rd Special Forces Company arrived and ordered them to step out of the house; Then they were shot dead one after the other.

The victims were: Herminio, 70, who was blind; his son Jobert, 20; grandson Norman Samia, 14; and nephews Emer, 17, and Welmer Somina, 19. They belonged to the Manobo Farmers Association.

• August 19, Teodoro Escanilla, a local broadcaster, spokesman of Karapatan-Sorsogon and chair of Anakpawis-Sorsogon, was slain allegedly by members of the 31st IBPA.

• Sept. 1, in Brgy Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, three lumad leaders became EJK victims. Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) in sitio Han-ayan, was hogtied and killed (his throat slit from ear to ear) inside a classroom of the school. Dionie Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod or Mapasu (an indigenous people’s organization in Caraga region), and Mapasu member Bello Senizo were shot dead at close range in Barangay Km 16 in full view of local residents.

Tagged by eyewitnesses as perpetrators of the killings were members of the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani force, along with soldiers of the 35thIBPA, 75th IBPA, and Special Forces.

Two days before the killings, some 40 soldiers and members of the paramilitary force occupied the function hall and part of the Alcadev school ground, a day after the school celebrated its founding anniversary. They allegedly threatened to massacre the faculty and staff and the sitio residents if they didn’t leave the area.

On Aug. 31 the paramilitary group burned down the Mapasu community cooperative store, impelling the residents to trek to nearby Brgy Km 16. The 35th IBPA and SF troops and most of the paramilitary followed them, while the 7th IBPA soldiers and a handful of Magahat/Bagani members remained in Alcadev, detaining Samarca in a classroom where he was later found dead.

It’s not new, the brazenness with which the Sept. 1 killings were carried out by state security forces, using paramilitary groups they have organized and let loose against the rural communities. The same arrogant brutality traces back to the 14-year Marcos dictatorship, which organized, funded and directed the Alsa Masa and other groups to terrorize people in the hinterlands.

The pervasive climate of impunity emboldens the state security forces to flout both domestic and international laws. The stark reality is that each successive administration – despite repeated avowals of democracy and the rule of law – has never felt duty-bound to curb, much more end, the impunity.

Just the other day another major daily, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ran an editorial upbraiding the P-Noy administration for “doing a miserable job” in addressing the continuing extrajudicial killings (but referring only to journalists). It reminded P-Noy that he had promised in his first state-of-the-nation address to check the tide of media killings with “’swift justice’ and the zealous prosecution of their perpetrators.”

“Malacanang’s anemic, indifferent response to the latest attacks against journalists inspires no confidence that it will do better this time to finally address the situation,” the editorial concludes.

Indeed, if P-Noy is indifferent towards media killings – which have not been attributed to state security forces – he has shown utter insensitivity to the broader attacks by the state forces, in the name of “internal security”/counterinsurgency, against ordinary civilians and activists who are trying to do right by the people.

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Published in The Philippine Star
September 5, 2015

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