Slain Negros activist is 14th ‘political killing’ since July — rights group

Rene “Toto” Quirante, a peasant leader in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, was killed early morning Friday, in what human rights group Karapatan said is the 14th case of extrajudicial killings (EJK) under the three-month old Aquino administration.

Quirante, 48, was gunned down in Sitio Amomoyong in Barangay Trinidad, reportedly by a group of soldiers, at around 2:00 am. He was the local chairman of Kaugma-on, a provincial chapter of militant farmers organization Kiluang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

“We condemn the murder of [Quirante], the latest in a series of politically-motivated killings under the Aquino administration,” said Antonio Flores, KMP spokesperson.

Witnesses cited by Karapatan said that Quirante, a father of five, was sleeping over in the house of one Romeo Gador for a KMP local consultation in the area when, at past midnight, around 30 armed men forced their way into Gador’s residence, taking Quirante and Gador outside.

The victims’ relatives said that Quirante and Gador were tortured, Karapatan added. Quirante was shot in the head, but Gador was not killed in the encounter.

Citing an initial report from its Negros chapter, Karapatan claimed that the killers of Quirante were “elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.”

Quirante was a former political prisoner, detained for rebellion in 2007. He was released after one and a half months of imprisonment, when the courts dismissed the case against him.

Members of Karapatan-Negros had earlier filed a number of administrative and criminal cases in 2008 and 2009 against officials of the same Army battalion, a local official of the Commission of Human Rights, and some local police and village officials as well.

The said cases stemmed from charges of alleged human rights violations in the wake of the 11th IB’s intensified counter-insurgency campaign in the area.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the cases last August 3, for “lack of evidence.”

‘Just like Arroyo’

Of the 14 EJKs that Karapatan recorded since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office on June 30, it counted nine as peasant leaders, including Quirante.

“Nangako si [Aquino] ng pagbabago, pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang killings, katulad lang din ni Arroyo,” said Flores.

(Aquino promised change, but the killings continue, just as they did under [former President Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo.)

During Arroyo’s term, from 2001 to 2009, hundreds of political killings were recorded, with estimates ranging from over 300, as reported by human rights lawyer Al Parreño, to over 900 as reported by Karapatan.

According to a study conducted by Parreño, less than one percent of these cases of EJKs have been solved. (See: Only 1 % of extrajudicial killings solved in last 9 years.)

Another peasant leader in Negros Oriental was one of the victims of EJKs under the Arroyo administration. Kaugma-on chairman Fermin Lorico was gunned down after a rally in Dumaguete City on June 10 last year, according to KMP.—JV, GMANews.TV

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