Veronico Lapsay Delamente, 27 years old, leader of a Mamanwa tribe and Alexander Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Occidental were treacherously killed on January 20.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — While the third round of peace talks between the government and the Left is ongoing in Rome, Italy, two activists were killed in separate incidents on the same day.
Veronico Lapsay Delamente, 27, leader of a Mamanwa tribe was shot and killed by unknown motorcycle riding men at around 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 20 in Punta Naga, barangay Caagdianao, Surigao del Norte, according to Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong mga Organisasyon (Kasalo) – Caraga.
Later that day, at around 8 p.m., Alexander Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Occidental, was shot in the head by a masked assailant in front of his home in Murcia town.
The recent incidents add to the ten cases of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration documented by human rights alliance Karapatan.
Ironically, the killings took place a day before the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed the supplemental guidelines of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Both Kasalo and NFSW, where the victims belonged, maintained that the killings were politically motivated.
Kasalo revealed that Delamente received death threats last December 2016 for his opposition to the large-scale mining in Claver, Surigao del Norte.
On Dec. 16, 2016, Delamente and his colleagues filed a graft and grave misconduct complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, the owner of Claver Mineral Development Corp. (CMDC) for evicting Mamanwa from their ancestral domain.
Besides CMDC, Kasalo said three other nickel mining companies are encroaching the ancestral lands of the Mamanwa in Claver: Adnama Mining Resources Inc. (AMRI); Tag-anito Mining Company-Nickel Asia Corp. (TMC-NAC); Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC).
Meanwhile, Ceballos, NFSW regional council member, also received death threats for leading the land cultivation campaign in barangay Igmaya-an, Don Salvador Benedicto town, according to Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma).
Since 2013, farmworkers under the NFSW occupied and cultivated a 25-hectare land and planted rice, corn, cassava, and bananas.
Uma said that a few days before the killing, a certain Jigger Costan, a known security aid of Nehemias dela Cruz, was seen outside the NFSW office in Bacolod City, where a meeting of council members was then taking place. Dela Cruz, former Don Salvador Benedicto mayor, has been claiming ownership of the land.
Danilo Ramos, Uma secretary general, said “the killing of Ceballos is also a chilling reminder that the new counter-insurgency program of the Duterte administration called Oplan Kapayapaan is no different from those of previous regimes.”
In a separate statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines said the new counterinsurgency plan “is clearly directed at suppressing the oppressed people and their resistance.” The CPP noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared that its armed units would not be withdrawn from their occupation of more than 500 barrios.
Armed encounter amid ceasefire
In a statement sent to Bulatlat, the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao denounced the military operation of the 39th Infantry Battalion in barangay Kisante, Makilala, North Cotabato yesterday, which resulted in a firefight.
Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of Regional Operations Command NPA-Southern Mindanao, said the NPA guerrillas initially maneuvered to avoid an encounter but at around 5 p.m. of the same day, the soldiers caught up with NPA guerrillas and an hour firefight ensued. Sanchez said one NPA fighter and eight soldiers were killed.
Sanchez said the military unit has not been abiding by the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire since August last year. A week after the GRP declaration, Sanchez said, the 39th IB dispatched peace and development outreach program (PDOP) teams in barangay halls, health centers and schools in Kidapawan City, Pres. Roxas, Magpet and Arakan municipalities in North Cotabato.
Sanchez added that the military troops and paramilitaries carried out intelligence gathering, combat and psywar in far-flung areas. He blamed the said military unit for the extrajudicial killings of civilians Rita and Norberto Gascon on September 13 in Arakan; killing of Rolan Malignan on November 22; and the enforced evacuation of several families in Magpet on December 6.
“The Duterte government must know by now that it is the bullish insincerity of its armed forces as it continues its counter-insurgency campaign that is the biggest impediment in the quest for just and lasting peace,” Sanchez said.