Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 12              April 27 - May 3, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


Outstanding, insightful, honest coverage...


Join the Bulatlat.com mailing list!

Powered by groups.yahoo.com

Gruesome Killing Enrages Militants 

NPA Vows Revolutionary Justice 

Intense grief and anger. The two explosive emotions were already present during the press conference on April 23 when militant groups first announced the murder of their two leaders in Southern Tagalog. But when the remains were found and the brutality of their deaths was exposed, the grief turned into overwhelming grief, the anger into explosive anger. They enveloped the two-day wake at the UP chapel and last Saturday’s protest march. If the killings were meant to frighten militants, they ironically accomplished the opposite, as grieving friends and relatives called on the New People’s Army to bring perpetrators to justice.


(Above) Husband of slain human rights leader cries for justice; (Above, right) Survivors tell media how the abduction happened

The slaying of Eden Marcellana, 31, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog and Eddie Gumanoy, 37, chairperson of Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), a regional peasant alliance, has ignited outrage among the ranks of activists and ordinary people.  

Marcellana and Gumanoy were the 28th and 29th victims of summary execution in the province of Oriental Mindoro under the Macapagal-Arroyo government. Witnesses point to the “Bonnet Gang,” a paramilitary group linked with the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion of which Col. Jovito Palparan Jr. is the commanding officer. Many of the recent killings in the island were also attributed to the group.

The bodies of Marcellana and Gumanoy were found mid-morning April 22 in Bansud, less than 24 hours after they and nine others were abducted.  Five of them, including Marcellana and Gumanoy, were separated from the    group.                                                                                           Protesters call for Palparan's prosecution

Gumanoy bore two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and another in the face. Marcellana’s head was smashed beyond recognition and two adjacent holes the size of an icepick were found on her nape. She was hogtied and beaten.

The undeniably brutal deaths they suffered have fanned the anger of militant groups and their supporters, particularly in Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila.

Marcellana’s husband Orly, also a peasant leader, cried in anguish, “Parang namatay ang kalahati ng katawan ko sa pagkamatay ni Ka Eden.  Para rin akong nawalan ng isang kamay sa pagkamatay ni Ka Eddie.” (It is as though half of my soul died with Ka Eden.  It is as though I lost an arm with the death of Ka Eddie)  

Doctor shows diagram depicting how one of the victims was killed 

At the wake, Orly said, “Kapag tinitingnan ko ang larawan ni Ka Eden, parang sinasabi niya sa aking huwag akong bibitiw, huwag akong susuko.  Maaasahan ninyo, magpapatuloy kami.  Kung ako man ay mamatay, naririto ang dalawa naming anak para ipagpatuloy ang nasimulan ni Ka Eden. (When I look at the picture of Ka Eden, it is as though she is telling me not to give up.  You can count on us, we will continue the fight. And even if I die, my daughters are here to continue what Ka Eden started)

Orly said that if the government fails to dispense justice for the death of his wife and his colleague, he would not hesitate to urge Gregorio ‘Ka Roger’ Rosal, spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to act. 

In a statement read during the wake, the Lucio de Guzman Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) based in Mindoro Oriental vowed to do everything to punish Palparan and the Bonnet Gang. A speaker from the underground Pambansang Katipunan ng Magbubukid (PKM), a member organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), also paid tribute to the victims and promised to give them justice.

Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao Enriquez and other militant leaders condemned the murders and held accountable Palparan and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who recently promoted him to brigadier general "inspite of his role in the murder of scores of anti-government activists."

Bayan Muna secretary general Nathanael Santiago demanded that Palparan be dismissed entirely from military service, arrested and prosecuted. Santiago also strongly urged the Department of Justice to make public the results of its investigation, following reports that a task force it leads has found evidence that the military carried out the killings. 

The human rights advocate

“Parang encyclopedia ng human (violation) rights cases si Ka Eden.  Kabisado niya bawat kaso sa Southern Tagalog (Ka Eden was like an encyclopedia of human rights violation cases.  She knew the details of every case in Southern Tagalog),” described Enriquez.

Prior to her death, Marcellana headed various fact-finding missions on the murders of 27 peasants, community leaders and activists in Mindoro Oriental and exposed the complicity of the 204th IB PA in the incidents. One of the cases led to the filing of murder charges against Palparan who in turn tagged Marcellana a "terrorist."

"Sino bang pinatay? Text ko nga si Ka Eden para malaman natin (Who was killed? I’ll text Ka Eden so that we’ll know),” said a student activist who had joined fact-finding missions in Mindoro Oriental with Marcellana, when she first heard the news about the killings. She knew that Marcellana would know if a killing had occurred in ST. She was speechless when she found out that Marcellana was one of the victims.

In a press conference, Arman Albarillo, eldest son of a slain couple in Mindoro, related how Marcellana helped his family and 22 other families seek refuge from heavy militarization in their province.

Arman said he was always insisting to go with Marcellana in fact-finding missions but the latter would always say, “Baka patayin ka rin doon (They might kill you, too).”

Irein Cuasay, secretary general of Karapatan-Mindoro Oriental, said in grief, “Ka Eden, kasama ka naming naghahanap ng patay, naghuhukay ng bangkay. Ngayon, ikaw naman ang pinatay nila (Ka Eden, you were with us looking for the dead, exhuming bodies. Now, it is you they have killed)!”

The peasant leader

In an interview, Eddie’s wife Maria cried, “Ang tunay na naglilingkod, siya pang pinapatay (Those who genuinely serve the people are the ones being killed).”

Daniel, 14-year old son of Eddie, said in between sobs, “Kahit mahirap lang kami, gusto ng tatay kong laging tumutulong sa mahihirap na magsasaka,” (Even though we are poor, my father wanted to always help poor peasants). He vowed to avenge his father’s death.

Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasant Movement), said Gumanoy was a peasant leader who fought against land grabbing and militarization.

The Incident

Based on a fact sheet released by Karapatan, the two victims, together with three others, were abducted in Maibon, Naujan on April 21.  They were part of an 11-member quick reaction team (QRT) tasked to investigate the cases of abduction and killings in Gloria and Pinagmalayan towns in the province.

On their way back to Calapan City, a group of some 20 bonnet clad armed men in a private jeep and motorcycles blocked them. They took  Marcellana, Gumanoy, Virgilio Catoy “King” II, Melvin Jocson and Francisco Saez with them in the jeep. 

Jocson and Saez are provincial coordinators of a peasant group Anakpawis and Catoy is a videographer of the Cultural Center of the Philippines-awardee audio-visual group ST Exposure.  

Catoy, who survived the incident, said the abductors asked who among them was Marcellana. One of their companions was slapped when she denied that Marcellana was with them. Marcellana immediately presented herself, asking that her companions not be hurt. When Marcellana was being taken away, Gumanoy volunteered to come along.

For hours, the men escorted and led the van along a rough and uphill dirt road, described Catoy.

One by one, the three were dropped off leaving only Marcellana and Gumanoy. At one point, Catoy said, he was made to kneel, his back facing his abductors, blindfolded and hogtied. He was told to say his prayers. Then the armed men drove off.  

The perpetrators

The survivors are convinced the abductors were military men. “They were organized, moving quickly with stealth. They knew what to do, and surprisingly, they knew what road we were driving on,” said Catoy.

Gumanoy’s wife, Maria, said only the military would do it to his husband.  Sino pa ba? Nilalantad niya ang kabulukan ng militar (Who else? He exposes the rottenness of the military),” she said.

Dani Beltran, secretary general of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace  (EMJP), said the same ‘Bonnet Gang’ killed the Albarillo couple, Edilberto Napoles and other victims of summary execution in the province.

There are at present nine battalions of the Armed Forces deployed in the island.

Meanwhile, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the formation of a task force to investigate the killings.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Narciso Abaya reportedly ordered the relief of Palparan. Palparan however will only be redeployed in Rizal.

Roberto De Castro of Bayan Muna, whose members and leaders have been the primary targets and victims of Palparan's vicious political repression campaign in the province, said his group has filed a formal opposition before the Commission on Appointments regarding the promotion of Palparan as brigadier general.  

”The filing of the opposition to Palparan's promotion is an initial step towards achieving justice for the army official's numerous victims in Mindoro Oriental,” de Castro added. Bulatlat.com

Back to top

We want to know what you think of this article.