By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan expressed indignation over the killing of an elderly couple in barangay San Vicente, Barcelona, Sorsogon on Saturday, Jan. 15.
Based on a report by Karapatan-Sorsogon, it was past 7:00 a.m., when men riding in tandem fired at the couple Silvestre Fortades, Jr., 71 and Rosemarie Galias, 68. The couple was inside their parked tricycle with their granddaughter.
Galias took her granddaughter with her to run for safety but the men also shot her.
“We express our strong indignation on the killing of Silvestre Fortades, Jr. and Rosemarie Galias, who were not spared by the Duterte regime and its terror machinery, the NTF-ELCAC,” Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Fortades died instantly while Galias was brought to the hospital but died eventually.
Palabay called on the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, as well as international bodies, to include the murder of Fortades and Galias in the investigation on the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte presidency,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Both were members of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Sorsogon and Anakpawis Partylist – Sorsogon.
Before the incident, Fortrades called his daughter (name withheld for safety) and said that on the night of Jan. 14, two alleged rebel surrenderees whom he called as Kambal Daku and Kintoy, together with two others, went to their house. These men accused one of his children as a member of the New People’s Army and was told to surrender “or else something bad will happen to the couple.”
Palabay said, “This threat against the couple the night before they were killed can only come from State forces under the Duterte regime.”
“We condemn the use of their so-called ‘balik-loob’ or reintegration program to further sow terror in the communities and transform these alleged surrenderees into military assets in their bloody war on terror against the people. This is clearly not reintegration but a dirty tactic to turn the people in the community against each other, instill fear and justify the attacks,” said Palabay, adding that this has only led to more killings, arrests, and other rights violations which she said is “a dirty handiwork of the NTF-ELCAC.”
Anakpawis Chairperson Rafael Mariano also called on Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero to order a probe on the killings and to assist the bereaved families in seeking for justice.
“We seek justice for the extrajudicial killing of Fortades and Galias. The killing of Anakpawis members and affiliates must stop,” Mariano said, adding that many of their members have been subjected to various human rights violations by state forces.
He also warned against electoral violence targeting progressive party-lists and their affiliates.
Karapatan said that the elderly couple were vendors selling garlic, onion, and other agricultural produce for a living, which they deliver in small stores on weekends. On weekdays, Fortades works as a mechanic and repairs motorcycles.
Sen. Leila De Lima also called for justice for the slain couple.
“What was the sin of the couple who only sold garlic and onion when they were killed? It is as if we are being conditioned to get used to it until such heinous human rights violations would become normal for us,” De Lima said in a statement in Filipino.
“We hold State forces under Duterte and the NTF-ELCAC accountable in the killing of Fortades and Galias. We demand that these murderers stop the threats against the couple’s family,” Palabay said as there are reports of suspicious-looking men roaming in the wake of the couple.
“Towards the end of the Duterte regime, we call on the people to continue vigilance and defeat their vicious attempt of continuing its murderous legacy with another president, with the same bloody record and utter disregard for rights and the calls of the people towards genuine peace and justice in the country,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO)