This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (,,
Vol. V, No. 8, April 3-9, 2005



Leyte Lawyer Silenced

On March 21 in Basey town, Samar province, more than 2,000 mourners and a convoy of more than 50 vehicles accompanied the remains of slain human rights lawyer Felidito Dacut. But militant groups vow, “This is not the end of Attorney Dacut, we will make sure that those who killed him would be penalized and that justice be served.” Dacut was the 29th of 32 activists killed since January this year.

By Maureen Japzon

Tacloban City – A soft-spoken human rights lawyer known in Leyte and Samar islands (some 575 kms. from Manila) as a staunch defender of the poor was silenced forever on March 14 just as the sun was about to set, right in the middle of this city.

On his way to buy milk for his daughter on board a multicab traveling along Real Street this city, lawyer Felidito Dacut was shot to death by unknown assailants. The assailants remain at large while witnesses reportedly remain under witness’ protection program.

Dacut was the regional coordinator of the militant Bayan Muna (people first)-Eastern Visayas.

The slaying happened less than two weeks after the army’s 8th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan vowed during a press conference “to eliminate insurgency in Eastern Visayas in six months.” He also said during a radio interview right after the killing that he considers Bayan Muna as a “hide-out and recruitment agency” of the New People’s Army (NPA).

In a press conference after the murder, Bayan Muna president and Representative Satur Ocampo urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stop the series and systematic assaults by alleged military personnel against Bayan Muna members all over the country.

Ocampo said that what happened to Dacut is part of a nationwide systematic attack against Bayan Muna.  He disclosed that since April 2001 to date, 49 Bayan Muna members and leaders have been killed and 10 others have been abducted.

Wave of terror

“While we consider other aspects and motives of the killing, the circumstances that surround the assassination of Attorney. Dacut leads to the recent military campaign and previous pronouncements of Major General Palparan,” Alex Lagunzad, the secretary general of Katungod, a local human rights organization in Eastern Visayas, said.

Palparan declared on March 5 an all-out war against “insurgents and anti-government rallyists,” saying he would wipe them out within six months. In the same press conference, he also declared that media members who interview “terrorists” would be penalized.

Prior to his new assignment, Palparan was assigned in Oriental Mindoro as a colonel. During his stint there, 40 activists from Bayan Muna and other groups were killed.

On March 6, the 63rd Infantry Battalion positioned an armored personnel carrier (APC) in front of the provincial Bayan Muna headquarters.  This alarmed the national and regional officers of the party-list group, forcing them to conduct a solidarity mission which Dacut, as regional coordinator, led.

On March 10, the lawyer presented, along with Bayan Muna Teddy Casiño the results of the mission in a press conference. Lagunzad relayed that two vans followed the mission members from the conference site to Tacloban. He said the vans belong to the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) of the AFP.

Last year, two other militant leaders in the region were killed. Sammy Bandilla, regional coordinator of Anakpawis-Eastern Visayas, was brutally murdered in October while Fr. Allan Caparro, an IFI member and vice-chairperson of the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Eastern Visayas (PCPR-EV) and a vocal anti-mining advocate, was shot last Feb. 18, just eight days Palparan assumed post.

A dedicated man

“Attorney Dacut, the soft-spoken lawyer of the marginalized sector, a known civil libertarian and a friend to his comrades and a loving husband and father was a victim of a politically-motivated crime, his assassination shocked us and caused deep sorrow but it only encourages us to continue what he has started,” grieved Nestor Nirza, the secretary general of Bayan Muna-Eastern Visayas.

Nirza related to Bulatlat that Dacut came from a meeting with other Bayan Muna officers but excused himself to buy milk for his two-year-old daughter when killed.

He also noted how Dacut’s physical health failed to keep him from visiting his clients who live in the interior barrios. He said most of Dacut’s clients were poor peasants and it was Dacut himself who would go to their places, showing the attention he gave even to small cases.

Aside from providing legal services, he was also a known labor organizer: educating workers as well as the urban poor about their rights and helping them form their own groups.

Appeal for resolution

On the same day that Dacut was shot dead, Ocampo was on the floor of Congress, giving a privilege speech regarding the killing of activists. “My speech was not yet through when I received a message of the incident,” said Ocampo.

The militant solons are circulating a House Resolution urging the president to take immediate action and stop the spate of killings and other forms of political repression against militants.

“This climate of terror is nothing less than a state of terrorism on legal organizations and party lists, needing immediate action from the President,” said Ocampo.

“This is not just a simple attack on Bayan Muna but an attack on our civil liberties. Binubusalan ang media at pinapatay ang mga attorney at mga pari (Media is being gagged and lawyers and priests are being killed), therefore we urge all civil libertarians to support our nationwide protest,” said Robert de Castro, deputy secretary general of Bayan Muna.


Meanwhile, the national office and Leyte chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) have both offered rewards totaling P150,000 for information leading to the arrest of Dacut’s killers. Another P100,000 was added by Gen. Dionisio Coloma, provincial police chief. Bulatlat

 © 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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