By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – Suspected state security forces along with goons of a local official in Negros Oriental shot and killed two members of a team investigating human rights violations in the province this afternoon, Nov. 28. A youth activist was also injured.
Killed were Elisa Badayos of Karapatan-Central Visayas, and Elioterio Moises, a village guard and member of the local peasant organization, Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association. They were pronounced dead-on-arrival at a hospital in Bayawan town. CJ Matarlo, a 23-year-old Kabataan Partylist member remains in critical condition as of press time.
The fact-finding team, composed of 30 people, was investigating reported human rights abuses committed by soldiers who are encamped in communities in the cities of Bayawan and Sta. Catalina.
Earlier, the team was blocked and harassed by armed men identified with Bayawan City Mayor Ismael Martinez. Armed men also questioned the team, but they were eventually allowed to pass. At 2:40 PM, Badayos, Moises and the KPL activist companion were in San Ramon village, Bayawan and were headed to the police station to file a blotter report on the blocking incident, when armed men opened fire.
Badayos and her family has long suffered from injustice perpetrated by the state forces. Her husband, Jimmy, a labor leader in Cebu, was abducted by the military in 1990, and has since disappeared. In 2012, a police and military team abducted her daughter, Jimmylisa, and a companion. She was later found illegally detained in Cebu.
In 2015, Badayos was among the leaders of progressive groups in Dumaguete City who were slapped with trumped-up criminal charges filed by soldiers of the 79th Infantry Battalion. Cases including murder, rebellion, and illegal possession of firearms were then filed against leaders.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this recent attack on human rights workers. Even as human rights workers conducting fact-finding missions in Batangas, Negros, Mindanao and elsewhere are being subjected to attacks by state forces, we will never relent in struggling alongside with the Filipino people in contending against this murderous Duterte regime,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan).
In 2008, the Negros Oriental local government unit issued Ordinance No. 5, s. 2008 entitled “An Ordinance Regulating Outreach Activities Through Medical and Fact-Finding Missions in the Countryside of Negros Oriental and for Other Purposes.” As a result, non-government organizations and other cause-based organizations are prohibited from conducting humanitarian missions without permission from the governor, municipal government, and the municipal police.
Yesterday, Nov. 27, the fact-finding team went to the Sta. Catalina City hall, where they had asked for an appointment with the local government unit, but no official came to face them.
Palabay said the Negros ordinance contravenes the purpose of fact-finding missions, which are conducted to confirm reports of abuses, especially those committed by the military and other officers and agents of the state.
“The attacks on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless. The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime. Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organizations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to kill outright those who dare to question,” Palabay said in a statement. (This article was updated to add the name of CJ Matarlo, who was not identified in the earlier report.)