2 activists killed, 4 church workers get threats
Report published by Philippines Daily Inquirer
Report published by Philippines Daily Inquirer
First posted 01:59am (Mla time) June 06, 2006
By Cyrain Cabueñas, Joey A. Gabieta
Editor’s Note: Published on page A1 of the June 6, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
BORONGAN, Eastern Samar — The blood of leftist militants just won’t stop flowing.
A week after men on a motorcycle gunned down former New People’s Army leader Sotero Llamas in Albay province, a lone assassin wearing a bonnet over his head shot dead a Bayan Muna member and a leader of a farmers’ group during a wake on Sunday night here.
Bayan Muna’s David Costuna, 48, and Arcadio Macale, 60, president of the local Barangay Agrarian Reform Council, were the 19th and 20th militants murdered around the country in the past two months.
Their deaths brought to 228 the total number of activists assassinated since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in 2001, according to an Inquirer tally.
As news of the latest murders spread, the human rights group Karapatan disclosed that four church workers in Nueva Ecija province had received death threats.
One of the threats, directed against Aglipayan priest Renato Respicio, was contained in a letter left in a church donation box.
Human rights and militant groups have blamed the seemingly unstoppable killings of political activists on government security forces, mainly military and paramilitary groups.
Costuna, barangay chair of Balud where the Sunday night killings occurred, was shot in the head, while Macale was shot four times in the chest.
A child’s wake
Costuna and Macale were at the wake of Costuna’s godchild and having drinks in a cottage about three meters from the house where the dead child lay, when the assassin appeared toward midnight.
“The gunman in a black bonnet shot Macale first in the chest about four times and then shot Captain Costuna in the head at close range,” village watchman Serafin Solomon said.
The killer fled to the highway, where a motorcycle was parked.
Threatened church workers
Police recovered seven empty shells of an M-16 rifle at the crime scene.
Senior Superintendent Pio Manito, Eastern Samar police chief, said police were looking at several angles in connection with the killings.
Of the 228 activists killed according to the Inquirer tally, 96 were Bayan Muna members. Costuna was the 10th Bayan Muna member killed in Eastern Visayas.
‘Can’t bring down Arroyo’
Karapatan said that besides Respicio, who is assigned at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s St. Jerome Cathedral, the other Nueva Ecija church workers who had received death threats were Pastor Virgilio Perido Sr. and his daughter, Pastor Beatriz Perido of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and Respicio’s secretary Angelina Hasa.
It said the typewritten letter containing the death threat to Respicio warned the priest to “stop organizing the people.”
“You stop. You can’t bring down President Arroyo. We might as well kill each other,” the letter said in Filipino.
Hasa got a similar letter with instructions not to follow Respicio’s orders “if she wanted to live longer.”
Virgilio Perido told a Karapatan fact-finding group that soldiers from the Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion visited his house on May 27-29.
He said the troops asked him to surrender his daughter, Aprilyn, an urban poor organizer.
They also purportedly said the pastor’s daughters were in the military’s order of battle for being alleged NPA supporters.
He said the troops were led by a First Lieutenant Taglinawan.
Karapatan said that when Perido refused, the officer warned him. “Which do you prefer? You surrender them or you get to learn later that your daughters are dead? You and other members of your family will be dragged into this. Your reputation as a pastor will be ruined,” Perido quoted the lieutenant as saying.
Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Kakilala, 48th IB commander, denied that his men had threatened the Peridos.
“They were negotiating for the surrender of Aprilyn who is an active NPA armed regular,” Kakilala told the Inquirer.
The soldiers also purportedly told Perido that their commander, 7th Infantry Division chief Major General Jovito Palparan, had given them two weeks to work out the surrender.
Karapatan said the soldiers claimed that Palparan was going to “personally take necessary action against them” if the pastors did not yield Aprilyn.
Palparan confirmed to the Inquirer that he had told the soldiers to “convince” relatives of the rebels to surrender Aprilyn. He denied directing his men to kill those who did not cooperate.
Heat of surveillance
Two other people were reported feeling the heat of government surveillance.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas secretary general Danilo Ramos of Bulacan province said a police officer had been monitoring his movements.
“I am being monitored by this man, Christopher Artuz of the Philippine National Police, who has been looking for me since May 2, selling all sorts of stuff from crabs to slippers and asking my barrio mates where I was,” Ramos said in a statement.
The office of PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao confirmed a PO1 Christopher Artuz was with the PNP, assigned to a group in charge of maintaining Camp Crame. Pagdilao could not be reached for further comment.
One of about 50 people facing charges of rebellion, Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano, also accused the military of shadowing his lawyer, Jobert Pahilga.
wo men on a motorcycle had been seen tailing Pahilga in his neighborhood “and even in his court hearings,” Mariano said.
Pahilga is also a lawyer of farm workers at Hacienda Luisita and is involved in other land cases involving big landlords.
In a teleconference with local media yesterday, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison accused Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and the members of the Cabinet oversight committee on internal security of directing the killings and abduction of leftist activists.
“(President Macapagal-Arroyo) is already the puppet of the generals in her Cabinet. She has no choice but to follow their lead because Ermita knows the wrongdoings committed by Gloria in the elections,” Sison said from his exile in the Netherlands.
Sison was apparently referring to allegations that Ms Arroyo had rigged the results of the 2004 presidential election, which she has denied.
In a statement, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the CPP-led National Democratic Front panel in the stalled peace talks with the government, drew a parallel between what he said was the use of motorcycle-riding assassins against Vietnamese nationalists during the Vietnam War and what was happening in the Philippines.
Just calling attention
Jalandoni said Ermita was with John Negroponte, currently the US intelligence chief, in Vietnam during the war.
Ermita was at a meeting and could not be reached for comment. But he had previously dismissed similar allegations by Jalandoni.
Speaking on radio last week, Ermita said: “That NDF official probably had nothing to say about it, and probably he just wanted to call attention.”
“But you don’t have to believe those kinds of statements from those kinds of people …”
With reports from Tonette Orejas, PDI Central Luzon Desk; and Luige A. del Puerto, Philip C. Tubeza, Norman Bordadora and Christine O. Avendaño in Manila