Brother and witness in the Benjamin Bayles killing harassed by soldiers in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, Philippines

At around 5:00 PM of 27 October 2010, Vilma E. Tejada was awakened from her nap by a poke of the barrel of an Armalite rifle held by a uniformed soldier purportedly looking for some chickens to buy.  Three soldiers barged into her house while she was resting.  She told them that she was not selling chickens.  The soldier sat down and asked her what is the name of Benjamin Bayles' brother.  Fearing for the safety of Manuel, Vilma said she did not know.  She overheard the other soldiers saying that she was lying but the other one said that they could not force her.  Then they all left.

Earlier that day, Vilma attended the pretrial conference of the murder case of Benjamin Bayles at the sala of Judge Nilo Sarsaba where she was presented as witness.

It was learned that Manuel Bayles also noticed overt surveillance after he filed a case against  Roger Bahon a.ka. Private 1st Class Reygine Laus and Private 1st Class Ronnie Caurino, the suspects of his brother's murder.  Neighbors informed him that unidentified men were asking around if they know Manuel and where he teaches.  They also reported that a DT motorcycle has been conspicuously parked in the vicinity of Manuel's house in the past days.

At past midnight of 4 November, around 10 soldiers in full battle gear forcibly entered Vilma's house by destroying the kitchen door.  She and her six children were surprised to see the armed soldiers inside the house.  The terrified children were frantically crying as the soldiers were trying to take their mother away.  Vilma resisted and one of the soldiers told her that they did not want her to testify in the Bayles murder case.  Vilma asked them how they knew that she is a witness to the case.  Without answering her question, the soldiers warned her to keep her mouth shut if she doesn't want to die.  She tried to scream but one of the soldiers threatened to shoot her.  She was carrying her youngest child in her arms when all these were happening.  They again threatened to kill her.  Resigned to the fact that the she could be killed that moment, she told them, “If you want to kill me, so be it.”  Upon hearing this, her children (age ranging from 15 to 1 year old) wailed “Mama, they will kill all of us now!”  She tried to pacify herself and her children by saying “We should not be scared, we did not do anything wrong.”  Sensing Vilma's defiance, the soldiers left.

It can be recalled that the Secretary of the Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin admitted in the House of Representatives budget hearing on 7 October 2010 that Roger Bahon a.ka. Private 1st Class Reygine Laus and Private 1st Class Ronnie Caurino are members of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA).

On October 19, 2010, Brigadier Geneneral  Jose Z. Mabanta, Jr. Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, confirmed Secretary Gazmin’s admission that the two soldiers arrested and currently detained in Negros, on  charges of killing Benjamin Bayles, are indeed members of the Philippine Army.  He announced this in a forum-dialogue sponsored by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Project in addressing the Extralegal Killings, a round table discussion  supported by the EPJUST program and held at Anabel’s Restaurant in Quezon City.  This was the first time that a military official admitted in public that AFP elements are involved in the extrajudicial killings in the country.