Peasant activist killed in front of wife, children

On September 5, 2009, at around 2:00 PM, the victim Romulo Mendoba, with his wife Nora and their children Emiljon (9 years old) and Christine Joy (4 years old), left their village Sitio Cambabang, Brgy. Cogon for the town proper of Basey, Samar. While they were walking, not far from the community, they came across two unidentified men walking towards them. One of the men who had short hair, fair complexion and slightly fat, wore a white shirt and faded jeans; while the other one who was medium built, had a darker complexion, wore a black shirt and short pants and carried a back pack.

The men stopped and engaged Romulo in a conversation. One of the men told Romulo that it was late for them to go to the fiesta. Romulo answered that they weren’t going to the fiesta in a nearby barrio but was going to town instead. After that, they went on their way.

Romulo and Nora noticed that the men kept looking back at them and stopped again and asked something from two boys who were walking just a few meters behind the family. Getting suspicious, the family stopped a few meters ahead to wait for the boys and inquired what the men asked from them. The boys narrated that the men asked if Romulo was the councilor’s husband which the boys confirmed.

Meanwhile, the two men proceeded to Alejandro Lanigao’s residence, Nora’s father. The fatter of the men asked where the councilor of Brgy. Cancaiyas live; who lives in the house across Lanigao’s; and where its residents were at that time. Lanigao innocently answered that it was his daughter, Nora and her family, who live in the house across his. The stranger then asked Lanigao his name and the name of one of Nora’s son who, at that time, happened to cross from their own house to Lanigao’s.  The stranger then explained that they were there because of COCOFED (Philippine Coconut Producers Federation) and wanted to talk to the Barangay Council. The other man stayed away from the house and stood by a coconut tree while the other was conversing with Lanigao.

After a few minutes, the two men then left towards Bgy. Cogon.

When Romulo and his family returned from town to Brgy. Cogon at around 4:00 PM, they noticed that one of the men whom they met earlier was sitting outside a karaoke bar texting. Around ten (10) uniformed soldiers were at the village at that time, two (2) were at the fish stand while the others were sitting nearby.

Romulo just paid for their loaned fish, while Nora bought some bread and after that, started their hike home back to Brgy. Cancaiyas. On their way, they walked together with their neighbor and who was with his son.

They haven’t walked a kilometer away from Brgy. Cogon when a man, who was wearing a long brown curly wig and the same clothes as the darker man the Mendobas met earlier, jumped from the side of the road and ran towards them. He hurriedly confirmed Romulo’s identity, took a short M-16 rifle from his back pack and immediately shot him in the body and head. When Romulo fell to the ground, the man took a .45 caliber gun from his bag and shot him again in the head several times. Romulo even attempted to call for his wife before he lost his breath. The shooter pointed his gun at Nora who was embracing Christine Joy when she attempted to get near her husband. The shooter then ran towards Brgy. Cogon. The neighbor, Jerry Boy who was so surprised of what happened was not able to do anything while Romulo was being shot. Emiljon ran towards the side of the road when the shooting started.

After the shooting, Nora requested their neighbor to go home to their village to fetch their Barangay Captain to ask for help and ordered her son to go to Brgy. Cogon to ask for help. The Barangay Captain of Brgy. Cogon denied them help for the reason that Romulo was not a resident of the said village.

Meanwhile, in Brgy. Cogon, some residents heard the gunshots and saw the shooter, who was not wearing the wig anymore, ran through the village. The soldiers who were still in the village also saw the running shooter but did nothing.

At around 5:30 PM, the Brgy. Captain of Brgy. Cancaiyas, along with some Councilors and Barangay Tanod arrived and helped carry Romulo’s body to Brgy. Cogon. A few meters away from the place of incident, they met the soldiers who just came from Brgy. Cogon. The soldiers’ team leader, who introduced himself as Morales, ordered to put the body down. He asked Nora about what happened, if her husband had any enemies and what firearm was used to kill her husband. Morales also talked to the Brgy. Captain. After that, they continued to Brgy. Cogon and brought the body to the town.

Eight bullet cases were recovered by the residents from the scene and covered the blood stains on the ground with dirt. The police did not investigate at the crime scene and only requested for a post-mortem examination for the body. Romulo sustained gunshot wounds in his body, neck, face and head.

Nora narrated that prior to the killing, Romulo was visited by members of the CAFGU on August 31 and September 1. Romulo was also accused of having knowledge of the August 30 raid conducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) on the CAFGU detachment near the Mendoba home.

On the morning of September 1, 2009, a CAFGU member went to the Mendoba home and told Romulo to go to their camp alone because their “sir” wanted to ask him some questions.

That day, Romulo proceeded to the camp despite apprehensions, and was interrogated in a hut near the camp’s gate. Three (3) soldiers took turns in asking him questions. One of them asked him his children’s name while looking at a list which came from a census from the Barangay Secretary. The soldier also told Mendoba that his wife, who’s a Barangay Councilor won in the election with help from the NPA’s which Romulo denied. The soldiers also accused him of having knowledge about the NPA’s attack last August 30 because someone from his village gave information to the rebels. For two hours, the soldiers repeatedly questioned him about the raid. The soldiers also informed Romulo that he was in the “OB” (order of battle) and threatened that he would be taken to the “higher authorities” if he would not admit to any of the soldiers’ accusations.

Because Nora got worried that her husband had not returned home after an hour, she went to the camp to fetch Romulo. When she arrived there, she saw her husband being interrogated in a hut nearby the gate. She was not allowed to go inside the camp so she decided to wait at a house which is nearby the camp.

Romulo was only allowed to go home when he insisted that he was hungry. His interrogator told him that they would visit him again. Romulo fetched his wife where she was waiting and told her about the interrogation when they arrived at their house.

After that, Romulo always had a hard time sleeping at night, out of fear of the military. He even attempted to convince his wife that he would stay at their hut in their rice field with his sons for the meantime but Nora didn’t give in to the request.

After the NPA’s raid at the CAFGU detachment, residents of Brgy. Cancaiyas also noticed that strangers frequently roamed their village, asking questions from residents. They suspect that they are intelligence agents connected with the military.