“The Aquino government is now drawing to a close, yet there is no let up still in the brutalities against the people and progressive members of our society.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Progressive party-list groups have condemned the killing of four people, including a six-year-old boy and two political campaigners, who were killed in separate incidents of suspected extrajudicial killings in April, two weeks before the May 9 elections.
On April 27, three people were killed by suspected soldiers: Rolan Casiano in Bicol region in Luzon; and Michael Sib-ot and Edjan Talian in Northern Mindanao. On April 29, government worker and known activist Emil Go was shot dead in Northern Samar in the Visayas.
“The Aquino government is now drawing to a close, yet there is no let up still in the brutalities against the people and progressive members of our society,” said Makabayan senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. Two of those killed – Casiano and Go – were active Makabayan supporters and campaigners.
Bai Ali Indayla, Gabriela Women’s Party-list nominee and spokesperson for Mindanao, also condemned the killings, and called for the pullout of soldiers in the communities.
“Aquino has proven that until his last two months of power, he will not relent on killings of indigenous peoples and their defenders,” Indayla said.
An urgent alert released by the Higala sa Lumád (Friends of the Lumád) Network on May 1 said that on April 27, at 5 a.m., around 27 suspected soldiers – fully armed but in plainclothes – arrived and started to harass residents of the indigenous Talaandig community in Sitio (sub-village) Kaulayanan, Lirongan village, Talakag town in Bukidnon.
At the house of peasant Michael Sib-ot, the armed men introduced themselves as Phil. Army men and demanded that Sib-ot surrender his firearms. Taken by surprise, Sib-ot ran out of the house to seek sanctuary at the church. Four armed men gave chase and shot him, hitting him fatally on the chest.
Two residents, Leonil Camariño and Premo Ehigon, the former village chief, came out of their homes and tried to help Sib-ot, but the suspected soldiers threatened to shoot them and instead forced them to walk back to their houses with their arms raised.
The suspected soldiers also shot and instantly killed six-year-old Edjan Talian, who had just come from fetching water some 200 meters away from the community, said the urgent alert.
Another resident, Wilfen Talian, 50 was interrogated by the more of the armed men, who claimed he has accommodated New People’s Army (NPA) members in his home. Four armed men came to the house of Romel Talian and ordered him to come out of the house and surrender his alleged guns. Out of fear, Romel jumped out of his house and rolled down the hill to his farm plot below. The armed men fired at him, hitting him on the buttock.
Almost five hours later, at around 9:30 a.m., 40 soldiers led by a certain Captain Macabadbad of the 1st Special Force Battalion, arrived, in complete military uniform. Residents feared an armed clash after Macabadbad denied that the first group of armed men were their companions. But as they came up to each other, Macabadbad and the armed men shook hands. The soldiers and the first armed group also left together at 3 p.m.
Higala sa Lumad Network said that the soldiers brought with them Gege and Merlin Talian, the respective mother and grandmother of Romel Talian, who was injured. In Malaybalay City, the soldiers tried to make them sign a settlement agreement, but the two women refused.
“They also asked the mother of Romel Talian to force Romel to sign an agreement stating that he was the one who shot Michael Sib-ot and Edjan Talian,” said the urgent alert. It added that the families of the two killed and the injured Talian had refused to any kind of settlement with the soldiers. The soldiers returned to the community after two days, but the Talaandigs indignantly refused offers by the military, said the urgent alert.
“On April 29, the military called for a meeting, informing the community that they are setting up an organization – according to them, for peace. They then told the residents to surrender their arms which they insist the community members have, and instead register with their organization. The military will then have their guns registered, they will be given training, uniforms, and IDs. Again, they tried to negotiate with the family of the slain community members, and again, the families refused,” the alert said.
Also on April 27, suspected soldiers shot dead peasant activist Rolan Lonin Casiano, 32, in Lower Sta. Cruz village, Ragay, Camarines Sur province. Casiano, a coconut farmer and member of the Camarines Sur 1st District People’s Organization, had actively campaigned for Makabayan senatorial bet Colmenares and progressive party-list groups.
A May 4 report by Bicol Today said soldiers came to Casiano’s house in the evening of April 27, but failed to find him. Later, Casiano was at the nearby wake of a relative, and was going to urinate by the river, when he was shot dead by five suspected soldiers. Casiano died from a gunshot wound on the right side of his body.
Witnesses said they saw the suspected soldiers who were still wet, possibly after passing through the river.
Bicol Today reported that Col. Angelo Guzman, public information officer of the Southern Luzon Command (SolCom), announced that the Phil. Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion based in Camarines Norte killed an NPA member in an encounter in Lower Sta. Cruz, Ragay and killed a rebel named Rolando Casiano. The military claimed in later reports that they were serving an arrest warrant to the alleged NPA member, but he fought and was killed by a single shot.
On April 29, Emil Go, 44, municipal council secretary of Palapag, Northern Samar was shot dead as he was riding a bike on his way home from the town market at around 5:30 a.m. The two gunmen escaped on board a motorcycle. Progressive groups condemned the killing, which could possibly be election-related, as Go was a supporter of Makabayan senatorial candidate Colmenares. He was also a campaigner for gubernatorial candidate retired priest Walter Cerbito, said a GMA Network news report.
Go was a known student activist and campus journalist from the University of Eastern Philippines. Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said he was one of the convenors of the human rights group Katungod in 1999. In 2001 to 2004, he was also convenor of Bayan and Bayan Muna party-list.
“A bloodless election has yet to happen in Philippine history. Gold, guns, and goons have always been in the arsenal of the trapos. It is truly unfortunate and disgraceful that Emil’s life — spent as a long-time activist and human rights defender — is senselessly snuffed just because of election ambitions and interests,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.