“Impunity is at its peak in the Aquino administration’s remaining days, leaving a horrible legacy of killing human rights defenders while babysitting criminals.”
These were the words of Ernan Baldomero, vice-chairperson of rights group Hustisya, as they condemned two consecutive killings on August 18 and 19, in the provinces of North Cotabato and Sorsogon.
In the morning of August 18, Joel Gulmatico, 58, and chair of the Arakan Peasant Progressive Organization (APPO), was shot dead while driving a motorcycle on his way to Barangay Naje in Arakan, North Cotabato. Gulmatico was a former member of the barangay (village) council in the said barangay for three terms. He ran for village chair in 2013 but lost.
According to rights groups, Gulmatico was an opponent to the presence of the Peace and Development Program (PDOP) in Barangay Naje. The PDOP is part of the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan.
“Not another one in Arakan! We demand justice for Gulmatico, as well as for Fr. Fausto Tentorio and farmer Ramon Batoy. Justice remains elusive, and the people in Arakan have all the reasons to demand the pull-out of troops in their communitiees. Who else has the motive to silence the likes of Gulmatico?” said Baldomero.
On October 2011, Italian missionary Tentorio was killed by alleged members of the paramilitary group Bagani. Three days after his murder, Batoy was killed when soldiers belonging to the 57th Infantry Battalion attacked their community in an alleged raid to arrest the priest’s killers.
“As it turned out, it is the military that is coddling the perpetrators. By allowing the existence of paramilitary groups, Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan continues to sow fear in the communities, despite the use of terms such as ‘peace and development.’ They continue the same policy of repression as implemented by previous governments. We join the call to dismantle paramilitary groups and to pull out military troops in communities,” Baldomero added.
Hustisya also expressed indignation with the killing of Teodoro “Todoy” Escanilla, spokesperson of a provincial chapter of Karapatan in Sorsogon, who was killed inside his house on the midnight of August 19.
“We are indignant at Ka Todoy’s murder, at a time when plunderers and human rights violators like Juan Ponce Enrile and Jovito Palparan are pampered by the Aquino government to the core. The killings of Gulmatico and Escanilla deserve justice,” said Baldomero.
Karapatan has documented 262 victims of extrajudicial killings since Aquino assumed office.
Hustisya Vice Chairperson
Hustisya National Office
2/F #1 Maaralin cor. Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City 1100 Philippines
Telephone: (02) 434-7486 | (02) 435-4146
E-mail: [email protected]