“Amidst the Aquino government’s crisis brought about by the Mamasapano fiasco, extrajudicial killings continue. BS Aquino is again taking a “business as usual” stance with regards to the crisis he is confronted with and this “business as usual” air is reflected in the continuing violations of human rights. Just this month, Karapatan received reports of three incidents of killings from North to South,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.
Initial report received by Karapatan cited the killing of Tata Baito on March 24, at 9:00a.m. Baito was a member of Lumad Group TINDOGA in Bukidnon. Security personnel of landlord Pablo “Poling” Lorenzo fired at Baito and wounded two others, Japsem Bagnaand Ricky Tumbaga, whose upper bodies were hit by bullets.
The victims were members of Indigenous Group Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) who are recognized as legitimate claimants of MONTALVAN Ranch, which occupies part of their ancestral domain. Currently locked in a web of land dispute, the land is claimed by seven other groups.
Lumad groups, including TINDOGA, were holding a “Bungkalan”, where they occupy and collectively till parts of their ancestral lands to assert their claims. Baito, with 200 other Lumad were on their way to the Bungkalan when about 20-30 armed men and security guards of Pablo Lorenzo open fired at them. Baito was killed instantly.
On March 16, in Barangay Matusalem, Roxas, Isabela, Virgilio Leotorco was begging for help when he was found by a farmer looking for his lost cow. “Tulungan ninyo ako. Nabaril ako. Mamamatay na ako,” (Help me. I was shot. I am dying), Leotorco said in Ilocano. Leotorco was shot thrice near the irrigation canal. He was out that night to catch frogs. Before the farmer could ask for help to bring Leotorco out from the irrigation canal, Leotorco died.
Leotorco, 56, was among the 66 settlers who are fighting for their resettlement area claimed by the Isabela State University. Another member of AMARI, Romulo dela Cruz was a victim of enforced disappearance. He has been missing since February 28, 2014.
On March 8, union organizer of PAMANTIK-KMU Florencio “Ka Bong” Romano was found dead along the side of the National Highway in Brgy. Surosuro Karsada, Batangas City. He was shot and his face was crushed. Romano’s friends and colleagues point to the Philippine Air Force stationed at the Fernando Airbase in Batangas City. Other leaders of progressive organizations have similarly experienced harassments and surveillance from the intelligence service of the Air Force.
“These men were killed because of the struggles they advanced the right to land and jobs. The bullets were meant to silence them, their colleagues and their communities,” Palabay said.
“Just like in the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when her administration was threatened with popular calls for resignation, human rights violations soared,” Palabay said. “BS Aquino now also shows the same desperation to keep his power,” Palabay said.
“For the Filipino people this only means one thing: the longer BS Aquino stays as president, the more desperate acts such as killings and rights violations are bound to happen,” Palabay concluded.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.