On the killing of Bayan
Muna leader in Bicol:
‘They’re Trying to Stop Us’ – Satur
The deputy minority leader at the lower
House last week linked the recent killing of Rodolfo “Pong” Alvarado –
leader of Bayan Muna (BM or People First) – in Ligao City, Albay to the
government’s thrust to prevent the party-list group from winning seats in
this year’s elections. “If they can’t have our party disqualified, they’ll
do what they can to cripple it to prevent it,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur
Ocampo in an interview with Bulatlat.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The deputy minority
leader at the House of Representatives last week said linked the recent
killing of Rodolfo “Pong” Alvarado – leader of Bayan Muna (BM or People
First) – in Ligao City, Albay to the government’s thrust to prevent the
party-list group from winning seats in this year’s elections.
“If they can’t have
our party disqualified, they’ll do what they can to cripple it to prevent
it,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo in an interview with Bulatlat.
Alvarado is the 122nd
BM member killed since 2001 by political assassins widely believed to be
He was also the fourth activist killed in Bicol in just three weeks. On
Dec. 11, BM member Cris Frivaldo was shot dead by gunmen in Irosin. He was
the younger brother of Irosin municipal councilor Max Frivaldo, also a BM
member, who was killed inside his house earlier this year.
On Dec. 12, human rights lawyer Gil Gojol was shot dead by two
motorcycle-riding gunmen after attending a court hearing. His driver,
Danilo France, also died in the attack.
Reps. Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis), Liza
Maza (GWP), Teddy Casiño, Satur Ocampo, and Joel Virador (all of Bayan
Muna) at the rally during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of
the Nation Address, July 24, 2006
Gojol, a former Sorsogon provincial board member, was also a lawyer of
Sotero Llamas, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP). Llamas himself was slain in May last year.
Then on Dec. 21,
Francisco Bantog, a BM provincial auditor in Donsol, Sorsogon, was shot 20
times by three motorcycle-riding gunmen.
Alvarado, 53, a Bicol
regional coordinator and Albay provincial chairman of BM, was also the
party-list group’s sixth nominee. Aside from being a BM leader, he was
also a convener of the Bicol People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity
Rates Increases (Bicol POWER) and was part of the secretariat of the Bicol
Movement for Disaster Response (BMDR).
Bulatlat said Alvarado was driving his car in front of his house in
Ligao at around 5:30 p.m. last Dec. 31 when fired upon by a lone gunman.
Alvarado sustained eight gunshot wounds and died instantly, the reports
occurred just 15 days after National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales
gave a radio interview in which he sought the Red-tagging of “leftist”
candidates for the 2007 elections. In a Dec. 16 interview with
government-run dzRB, Gonzales asked that “left-leaning” party-list
candidates be “labeled” as “communists” to warn the electorate –
particularly soldiers and policemen, he said – against allowing those he
called “democracy’s enemies” to get congressional seats.
“There will be plenty
who will run in the party-list in the coming elections and we have to
describe them all,” Gonzales said. “As National Security Adviser, it is
important (for me) to show soldiers and police what groups are being used
by the communists to continue their bad intentions on the public.”
Gonzales did not name
in the radio interview which party-list groups “are being used by the
However, in a forum
at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City in August last year – in which
Bulatlat was present – Gonzales particularly named BM as a “recruiter”
and “financier” of the clandestine New People’s Army (NPA), which is led
by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The CPP-NPA has been
waging armed struggle against the government for more than 30 years.
“There are two frames
of their (the communists’) struggle: armed and legal,” Gonzales said in
the forum at the Sulo Hotel. “Those in the legal frame say they should not
be included among those pursued by General Palparan because they are in
the legal arena. Let’s get into the moral plane: you are the ones
advocating armed struggle, you are the ones strengthening armed struggle,
you are the ones who give resources to strengthen armed struggle – and you
say you should not be included.”
“That’s what Satur
Ocampo and the others say,” Gonzales continued. “What do you mean you
should not be included? You are the ones recruiting for the NPA, you are
the ones giving money to the NPA, you are the ones making the rebellion
grow – and you say you are innocent?”
The General Palparan
Gonzales was referring to is retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., who
has earned notoriety for the countless shocking cases of human rights
violations in the areas under his command.
BM, which was formed
in 1999, has twice topped the elections for party-list groups. It first
ran for congressional seats in 2001 and was able to send all its first
three nominees – Ocampo, Crispin Beltran, and Liza Maza – to the House of
Beltran and Maza
later led their own party-list groups, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) and
Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), to victory in the 2004 elections.
BM is currently
represented in Congress by Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador.
The party-list group
has been noted for its staunch advocacy of independence in economic and
foreign policy, social justice, good governance, and human rights.
“That is a clear
signal to Bayan Muna members about what the government and the military
will be doing to derail us in our campaign and block our possible victory
in the coming polls,” Ocampo said on Alvarado’s killing.
Ocampo also took
issue with Gonzales’ allegations on BM as a “recruiter” and “financier”
for the NPA, and on party-list groups which “are being used by communists”
supposedly to strengthen the armed struggle. He noted that Gonzales – who
is a leader of the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP or
Socialist Democratic Party of the Philippines) – has been accusing BM of
being a “communist front organization” since 2001.
“We have challenged
Gonzales several times either to stop his black propaganda against us or
to present clear evidence for his allegations,” Ocampo said. “But he has
yet to present documentary evidence on that.”
organizations they are branding as ‘front organizations’ end up becoming
targets of physical elimination,” Ocampo further noted.
Based on data from
BM, four of its leaders and organizers were killed in 2003. The number
shot up to 16 the next year, which was an election year. The next year, BM
recorded 36 of its leaders and organizers ending up as victims of
In an interview with
Bulatlat in 2005, BM deputy secretary-general Robert de Castro said
many of the killings of his group’s leaders and organizers occurred in
areas where it garnered high numbers of votes. Ocampo made the same
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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