Karapatan hits spate of killings in Negros, as 4 victims reported dead in one day

Human rights group Karapatan strongly condemns the spate of killings in Negros, now claiming four victims in one day. The killings were done using the same modus operandi – shot by riding-in-tandem and masked gunmen.

“Alongside implementing the government’s drug war and counterinsurgency program, the military and the police have built a reputation for executing killings in the same manner, using riding-in-tandem masked gunmen to evade accountability and leave as little evidence as possible. Throughout the years, there are cases were policemen have been unmasked to be behind these vigilante-style killings. Moroever, only the state has the machinery, the capability, the ruthlessness, and the programs to legitimize these attacks,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, raising the possibility that the attacks are the result of the implementation of Oplan Kapanatagan, Memorandum No. 32, and Oplan Sauron.

According to initial reports, 64-year-old Romeo Alipan, chairman of Barangay Buenavista, was shot several times by still unidentified gunmen who forcibly entered his house at around 4:30 am on July 25. Meanwhile, at past midnight in Barangay Hibaiyo, unidentified gunmen entered the house and shot dead two education officials: Guihulngan Science High School principal Arthur Bayawa and his sister, Guihulngan City Division CID chief Ardale Bayaya. 

Also on July 25, 2019, motorcycle-riding gunmen killed another victim from Negros Oriental. The victim, identified as Reden Eleuterio, 50 years old, was gunned down in Brgy. Tampocon II, Ayungon, Negros Oriental. The Karapatan official raised that the series of killings might have been reprisal by the PNP, following the reported ambush of 4 policemen in Ayungon, but targeting and harming civilians instead.

Palabay also noted that it is after the deployment of additional troops sanctioned by Memorandum Order No. 32, and the implementation of Oplan Sauron, that killings, illegal arrests and various other rights violations have worsened progressively.

“These escalating deaths in Negros reveal the catastrophic effects of the Duterte regime’s intensified militarization of communities. We do not discount the possibility that these policies have resulted to the deaths of these civilians, owing to the expanded power given to the police and the military-authority that they can easily abuse. As the government brazenly promotes the culture of tyranny and impunity, it is very alarming how State forces turned the region into a killing field through an orchestrated pattern of attacks-vilifications, harassments, killings,” she explained, citing that just days before, riding-in-tandem gunmen also killed red-tagged lawyer Atty. Anthony Trinidad.

Condemning the killings, the Karapatan official slammed the government’s measures, which aim “to suppress and prevent lawless violence”. She added: “Instead of its objective, these state-sanctioned policies have suppressed dissent and promoted state-perpetrated violations committed with impunity.”

Over the weekend, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde said that Oplan Sauron, the intensified campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP in the Negros region will continue. According to Albayalde, the results of the beefed-up campaign against suspected members of the New People’s Army “were good.”

“The pronouncement of the police official is truly outrageous and dangerous. It is unacceptable to say that the results of a government’s program are good when innocent individuals were killed. Amid the intensified murders in the region, no one was made accountable and this climate of impunity has allowed this murderous pattern to continue. The escalation of attacks stemmed from the inception and implementation of said policies in Negros,” Palabay concluded.