Activist killed in Aklan

MANILA, Philippines – A day after a journalist was killed in Tabuk City in Nueva Vizcaya, a coordinator of militant group Bayan Muna was shot dead yesterday morning in Kalibo town in Aklan.

Fernando Baldomero, a municipal councilor of Lezo, Aklan and at the same time provincial coordinator of the Makabayan Coalition, is the first militant killed since President Aquino was sworn into office on June 30.

An attempt was made on Baldomero’s life early this year when a grenade was thrown at his house in Barangay Sta. Cruz Bigaa, Lezo, Aklan by two men on a motorcycle.

According to initial reports, Baldomero was in front of his house trying to start his motorcycle to bring his child to school when he was shot by two unidentified men.

The gunmen, armed with a 9mm pistol and long firearms, fled on a black motorcycle with no license plates.

Senior Superintendent Epifanio Bragais, director of the Aklan Provincial Police, said Baldomero suffered gunshot wounds in his head and neck and was brought to a hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), through secretary-general Renato Reyes, condemned the killing and asked the President to “use the full force of the law to arrest the perpetrators.”

Reyes said the President must send a clear message to state security forces that these killings have to end and perpetrators will be prosecuted.

“Heads must roll in the AFP, otherwise the climate of impunity will continue,” Reyes said.

Hilao-Enriquez, on the other hand, said the incident follows the announcement of the new three-year counter-insurgency plan by the newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David.

Established in 1995, Karapatan monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, and assists and defends victims.

“Neither Gen. David nor President Noynoy have called to stop the killings and to end the culture of impunity that still prevails,” Enriquez said.

“The lack of declaration from President Noynoy to stop the killings and impunity, coupled by Gen. David’s pronouncement of another deadline to end insurgency, and this new wave of political killings, signals that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, is still enforced under Mr. Aquino’s term and has not let up on targeting progressive individuals,” Enriquez said.

She also noted that in June, seven individuals were killed, including an Ampatuan massacre witness, and last week, a former lawyer of the Mangudadatus was ambushed.

“We are concerned that the calls for justice and the ending of impunity will only fall on deaf ears,” expressed Enriquez.

“More than the ban on wang-wang, President Aquino must also issue a categorical order to stop the culture of impunity and put to end the atrocities of Oplan Bantay Laya implemented by the AFP.”

Like Bayan, Karapatan calls on the present administration to immediately conduct an investigation, and to arrest and punish the perpetrators of the Baldomero killing.

“The total and complete justice announcement of Aquino is nothing if the political killing and impunity are still prevalent and continuing,” Enriquez concluded.

Last week, newly appointed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima vowed to put an end to the unexplained killings that have been widely criticized by other governments and human rights groups.

Karapatan has said that over 900 activists critical of government, including students and labor leaders, have been killed in the past nine years.

The assassinations were normally carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.

A long list of victims

In its annual report on human rights worldwide in March, the US State Department cited such killings in the Philippines during the tenure of former president Arroyo.

It mentioned “arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors.”

In 2007, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Philip Alston, and a Philippine government fact-finding mission blamed the military for many of the killings. The military has consistently denied the accusations.

Mrs. Arroyo created Task Force Usig in 2006, at the height of media and militant killings, to investigate and go after perpetrators and ensure their prosecution.

Task Force Usig, in its investigation, has recorded a total of 119 validated cases of slain militants/activists since 2001.

Of these cases, 64 were filed before the Prosecutor’s Office or with appropriate courts, 54 are under investigation, and one was considered closed.

Out of the 64 cases filed, 21 were perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), 12 cases involved military and paramilitary elements as suspects, four involved civilians who allegedly are linked to the military, 26 cases were perpetrated by civilians, and another involved police personnel.

As to the status of the 64 cases, 43 were already filed in court and 21 cases are still pending at the Prosecutor’s Office.

There were 46 identified suspects involved in the killings of militants/activists, 17 of whom were arrested, resulting in one conviction, while six were already dead, three have surrendered, one is under custody and 19 are still at large.

The year 2006 registered the most number of slain militants/activists, with 38 incidents. – Rhodina Villanueva, Ronilo Pamonag

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