Teacher-activist killed in Philippines

An elementary school teacher and member of the party-list group ACT Teachers was killed over the weekend, making him the third member of a leftist group to fall victim to alleged extra-judicial killings in the first 10 days of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

An elementary school teacher and member of the party-list group ACT Teachers was killed over the weekend, making him the third member of a leftist group to fall victim to alleged extra-judicial killings in the first 10 days of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Mark Francisco, 27, who teaches at the San Isidro Elementary School in Palanas, Masbate, was on his way home last Friday with four companions aboard motorcycles when they were fired upon in Sitio (sub-village) Umawas, Barangay (village) Malibas by two armed men wearing ski masks and camouflage uniforms.

Franciso died instantly of bullet wounds. Another co-teacher managed to escape the assailants and reported the incident to the police, who have yet to establish the motive.

Representative Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers party list condemned the incident.

“Government must immediately take steps to put an end to the violence faced by teachers in Palanas town. The Aquino government’s ability to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens is being put to the test,” he said in a statement.

He urged the police and local government authorities to extend security to Francisco’s colleagues who were witnesses to the crime.

In a separate statement, Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano called on Aquino to take a cue from the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in putting a stop to the killings in the country.

Last week, Francisco Baldomero, a coordinator of Bayan Muna party list in Aklan province who ran and won as councilor under Aquino’s Liberal Party was gunned down while he was about to bring his son to school.

This was followed by the killing of Pascual Guevarra, 78, head of the local Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association and the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa, in Nueva Ecija in the afternoon of July 9.

“In only a matter of 10 days of the Aquino administration, three activists have been killed. Mr. Aquino should immediately make concrete steps to stop the seemingly rising body count of activists,” said Mariano, who joined the fact-finding mission team by Karapatan, Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon, and Anakpawis, in Fort Magsaysay Monday.

Mariano said that “if the Aquino government is really serious in addressing extrajudicial killings in the country, his government must immediately” heed Prof. Alston’s recommendations.

In his final report on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, Alston recommended that extrajudicial executions must be excluded from counterinsurgency operations. The UN special rapporteur also suggested that:

* As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.

* The necessary measures should be taken to ensure that the principle of command responsibility, as it is understood in international law, is a basis for criminal liability within the domestic legal order.

* The government should immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies. Any such characterizations belong solely within the power of the civilian authorities. They must be based on transparent criteria, and conform with the human rights provisions of the Constitution and relevant treaties.

* Transparency must be introduced to the “orders of battle,” “watch lists,” and similar lists of individuals and organizations maintained by the AFP, PNP, and other elements of the national security system. While their contents might justifiably be considered secret, which lists exist, their purposes, the criteria for inclusion, and the number of names on each should be made public.