Philippines Church leader still faces intimidations after attempted murder
Asian Human Rights Commission – Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission – Urgent Appeals Programme
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that a church leader in Ilocos Sur was again intimidated by unidentified men on 11 November 2006, while he was hospitalized to receive treatment for his injuries in an attempted murder on November 9. He was shot by two men riding on a motorcycle in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. (Please read our previous appeal UA-369-2006 )
We also wish to make a correction in that that Rev. Lito Apalet, another victim in our previous appeal, was not involved in this case as previously mentioned.
According to information received from a local human rights group, Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA), two unknown men, on separate occasions, went to the hospital and looked for Rev. Billy Austin, the victim and the head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) in Ilocos Sur. They refused to identify themselves to the nurses. Rev. Austin’s visitors were also followed by unknown men riding on motorcycles. The harassments to him and his family persist, and his life is still at risk.
The AHRC also received from IHRA about further details of the life attempt on Rev. Austin on November 9. On that day, Rev. Austin was attending a human rights training programme at the United Methodist Church which he belongs to. He left there with his group members around nine at night and walked to the nearby BAYAN office, he noticed that there were a motorcycle and a van tailing them.
As Rev. Austin and his group walked along Del Pilar Street, a blue motorcycle, similar to a XRM, was heading in their direction. Two men were on board and the man behind the driver raised his gun and started shooting at them. Rev. Austin suffered two gunshots, one on each leg. He was sent to a nearby hospital and reported the case to the local police.
Rev. Austin is the latest victim in the attacks targeted at church workers. On August 3, Pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa, a member-consultant of the United Methodist Church (UMC), was killed by armed men believed to be from the military in Daraga, Albay (Please refer to our previous appeal: UA-274-2006 ). On October 3, Bishop Ramento, a member of the Philippines Independent Church (PIC) and a prominent human rights defender, was brutally murdered in his parish in Talac City (Please refer to: UA-331-2006 ). Shortly after that, on October 8, another PIC priest, Fr. Dionisio Ging-Ging was murdered in Barangay Bajao, Tago, Surigao del Sur (Please refer to: UA-337-2006 ). None of these cases have been effectively resolved so far.
We are also aware that in past cases, no protection was given to victims who received deaths threats or attacks, which ends in tragic deaths. For example, For example, an activist Victor Olayvar was shot dead on 7 September 2006 by gunmen riding on a motorcycle in Danao after he had been reportedly receiving threats to his life. Even though his group immediately informed the local officials about the death threats prior to his death, the local authorities did not take any initiatives to protect him (See further: UA-300-2006 ). We urge the government to take prompt action to protect Rev. Austin and his family, to prevent such tragic deaths happening again.
Please write to the following authorities, requesting them to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation into Rev. Billy Austin’s case. Appropriate protection must also be given to Rev. Austin, his family and the witnesses of the case. Please also urge the Philippine government to take prompt actions to stop the extra-judicial killings and attacks targeting at church workers.
PHILIPPINES: Church leader still faces intimidations after attempt murder
Name of victim: Rev. Billy Austin, a head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) in Ilocos Sur province as well as member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)
Alleged perpetrators: Two unidentified armed men
Place of incident: Lahoz Clinic & Hospital in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Date of incident: First life attempt on 9 November 2006; second attempt of intimidation on 11 November 2006
I am extremely concerned about the situation of Rev. Billy Austin, a church worker who was intimidated by unidentified men on 11 November 2006, when he was hospitalized for the injuries he suffered in an attempt murder on November 9.
According to the information I received, while Rev. Austin was at the hospital, two unknown men tried to approach him without identifying themselves to the nurses. His visitors also complained that they were followed by unknown men riding on motorcycles. Rev. Austin was shot by motorcycle riders while he was attending a human rights training programme in Vigan City on November 9. He suffered two gunshots, one on each leg. It is shocking that the authority failed to protect him and his family even after the attack took place.
Rev. Austin is the not the first church worker that has been targeted in the attacks. The violence against church people and the government’s inability to protect is unacceptable. I urge you to ensure their security and protection without any delay. An effective and independent investigation must be conducted to identify and prosecute the attackers.
I urge you to exhaust all means of investigation to identify the attackers of Rev. Austin. Protection should be given to him and his family. I also urge you to take measures to protect Rev. Austin’s family and visitors from any harassment.
I am gravely concerned that in past cases, no protection was given to victims who received deaths threats or attacks, which finally caused tragedies. For example, an activist Victor Olayvar was shot dead on 7 September 2006 by gunmen riding on a motorcycle in Danao after he had been reportedly receiving threats to his life. Even though his group immediately informed the local officials about the death threats prior to his death, the local authorities did not take any initiatives to protect him. In this context, I am worried that Rev. Austin will become another victim of the ongoing extrajudicial killings without any protection from the Philippine government. Therefore, I urge you to take prompt action to protect Rev. Austin and his family to stop such tragic deaths happening again.
I also urge the Philippine government to strictly enforce the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act (RA 6981), so that the victims and witnesses can come forward to give their statements before court or other relevant investigating bodies without fear.
Lastly, I urge you to use your official capacity to urge the Philippine government issue standing invitations for these procedures to conduct visits to the country, in particular Special Rapporteurs on extra-judicial killings, on torture, on human rights defenders and Working Group on enforced disappearance.
I trust that you take serious and effective action on this matter.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
2. Dr. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
3. Director General Oscar Calderon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Tel: +63 2726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
4. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
5. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Att: Melinda Ching Simon
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367