Karapatan condemns recent killings of three human rights defenders in one week

“We strongly condemn the killing of yet another minor, a 15-year-old student at a community school in Mindanao, the killing of a former Bayan Muna coordinator in Borongan City, and the killing of another farmer in Bulacan days later. It must be emphasized that these killings are not isolated, but a systematic attack against indigenous and peasant communities who continue to raise legitimate demands for education, self-determination and genuine land reform. Students, their communities, and the schools which they have founded and built are being attacked. Farmers and their organizations, as well as their supporters are being attacked. Human rights defenders and activists are being targeted. The Filipino people who remain firm in the defense of their rights are in extreme danger under this brutal and murderous regime,” said Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor. 

The Save our Schools (SOS) Network reported the killing of a 15-year-old Lumad student in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on March 15, 2019. The victim was identified as Jerome Pangadas, a resident of Sitio Kamingawan, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod and a Grade 6 student at the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center. Reports state that at around 6pm of March 15,  Pangadas was in the house of another resident, watching TV, when a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) opened fire at several houses. The 15-year-old was hit on the head and killed on the spot. The perpetrator was identified as Eroy Balentin.

Clamor emphasized that “students of community schools have been increasingly at risk, particularly after the Duterte government and its band of military fascists have zeroed in on the schools as their targets. Among the recent cases of yet another student killed was in September 2017. Obello Bay-ao, 19 years old, was also killed by members of the paramilitary. Complaints were filed at the Department of Justice and in October 2018, the DOJ found probable cause to charge paramilitary members Ben and Joven Salangani with the murder of Bay-ao. We are committed to exact accountability from the government for the numerous injustices it has done on individuals and communities.”

The Karapatan leader also noted that apart from counter-charges against paramilitary members and elements of the police and the military on cases of human rights violations, there have been continuing, widespread calls to disband paramilitary units which are being used as force multipliers by the government. 

Clamor also cited the killing of James Vinas, 72 years old, on the evening of March 12, 2019 in Borongan City. Vinas was a former Bayan Muna coordinator in Borongan, Eastern Samar. Riding-in-tandem assailants shot Vinas, then blamed activists for the killing. Days later, on March 18, 2019, another farmer in Brgy. San Isidro, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, was also gunned down by motorcycle-riding perpetrators. The victim, Larry Suganob, 42, was active in the farmers’ local struggle against landgrabbing of the Ayalas. Suganob was a member of Pinagbuklod, an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). According to residents, elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) have been making rounds in the area.

“Not only are individuals and communities being targeted, but their advocacies are being criminalized and red-tagged. This regime does not recognize the civil and political rights of its people, nor does it respect or promote the social, cultural and economic rights of these communities. The Duterte government is hell-bent on forcing mega-projects that ultimately spell landgrabbing, dispacement, and irreparable environmental degradation to communities. This is forcefully implemented by employing paramilitary units and unleashing the whole gamut of state security forces who mercilessly kill and massacre on command,” said Clamor.

“We demand an immediate end to these killings, which would entail the disbanding of paramilitary groups and the withdrawal of the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.  The killings of Pangadas, Vinas and Suganob bring to light the continuous attack and atrocities being committed by state forces against indigenous and peasant communities. Instead of victim-blaming, impunity and the weaving of lies which the government resort to when being questioned with these cases, it should focus on resolving and addressing these incidents and the causes which led to it,” Clamor ended. 

Reference: Roneo Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, +639997721233 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580