Movement for justice for Geertman launched

From martial law to Noynoy Aquino, killings of missionaries among poor go on

A movement that seeks justice for Wilhelm Geertman will have its launch today, almost two months after Geertman was killed on July 3, 2012. Geertman, a Dutch lay missionary, worked in Central Luzon as organizer, educator, advocate of genuine land reform for the peasant indigenous people’s rights and environmental protection.  

Geertman was killed by two gunmen and another driver riding on a motorcycle. “Despite police claims that the killing was a simple case of robbery, Karapatan believes that the killers were state agents and that Geertman’s case is that of an extrajudicial execution. The pattern that preceded the killing and the manner by which he was killed resembles that of the many cases of extrajudicial killings under Oplan Bantay Laya and now, under Oplan Bayanihan,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan. 

Hilao-Enriquez said that “prior to the killing, Geertman and people around him experienced surveillance; there were also threats and branding of Geertman as supporter of the New People’s Army and a member of the National Democratic Front. It’s not at all new. It has been the practice by the government and the military especially under martial law.” 

Before Geertman, Hilao-Enriquez said, “there was Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, an Italian priest of the PIME, who was killed on October 17, 2011 in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato. Fr. Pops also worked with the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, establishing literacy schools for the Lumad children. He was also a staunch advocate of genuine land reform and an anti-mining activist.   

The PIME or Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions also lost Fr. Tullo Favali during martial law. Fr. Favali was killed by the Manero brothers who were members of Marcos’ Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force (ICHDF), a paramilitary group coddled by the military.  “It is sad to note that these same paramilitary groups were never disbanded even after martial law and has continued to sow terror in the communities even under Noynoy Aquino’s government,” said Hilao-Enriquez. 

On May 20, 1992, under the presidency of Cory Aquino, another PIME priest, Fr. Salvatorre Carzeda, was killed in Zamboanga City by motorcycle-riding gunmen.  Two of the four bullets fired at Fr. Carzeda hit his head. “It was because former Pres. Cory Aquino opted not to disband these paramilitary groups that they were able to continue terrorizing and killing people suspected of being members of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” said Hilao-Enriquez.

Hilao-Enriquez said that, “these are only among the most prominent cases. There are numerous other cases victimizing lesser known peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, students and professionals. These are cases that cut across governments – from Martial law to Noynoy Aquino. And they continue, until this day, with impunity. Nothing has changed.”