Most recently, on February 19, 2017, another farmer and member of a local peasant organization, Willerme Agorde, was gunned down by suspected elements of the Bagani paramilitary in North Cotabato province. This recent killing has put the number of reported political killings to nine (9) in three weeks, since February 3, 2017 when Pres. Duterte announced the termination of the unilateral ceasefire of the GRP with the NDFP. Those killed were either farmers or members of indigenous communities; six (6) of them were members of progressive organizations.
Let us condemn the political killings of activists and civilians and systematic and intensified military attacks against communities. We call for an end to the fascist attacks and State terror against the people, as well as the junking of declarations and counter-insurgency plans with the same effect, particularly Oplan Kapayapaan. Let us support the call for the continuation of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, and for the Government of the Philippines (GRP) to abide by previous agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and to sincerely address the root causes of the armed conflict.
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENTS
Peasant leader Willerme Agorde, 64, auditor of Mailuminado Farmers Association Incorporated (MAFAI) was shot by suspected members of Bagani paramilitary group at 5pm yesterday, February 19, 2017, in front of his house at Brgy. Ilustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato. He was declared dead on arrival at 10pm last night at the Antipas Medical Specialist Inc., where he was brought after the shooting.
Agorde was among the active leaders of MAFAI who were asserting the farmers’ right to own the land they have been tilling since the 1950’s. The farmers led by MAFAI have been engaged in the struggle for land ownership since former Pres. Carlos Garcia allotted some 7,200-hectare land as reservation for the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) and Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST) through Presidential Proclamation No. 428 in 1957. Data from the Department of Agrarian Reform, as of December 2016, revealed that a total of 3,277.8 hectares of land in the USM and CFCST reservation remain unused.
Agorde led farmers in a protest camp-out inside the CFCST campus in December 2016, when they successfully prodded university officials and local and national authorities from DAR to distribute the unused land of the university to the farmers. In a letter dated December 16, 2017, DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano assured the farmers that the unused land will be awarded to its actual tillers and occupants.
On February 16, 2017, at around 10am, Edweno ‘Edwin’ Catog, 44, a Lumad-Mansaka, and a member of the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (HUMAWAC), was shot by two men, suspected to be linked to the 46th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), onboard a white XRM motorcycle in the highway intersection of Brgy. Furentes, Pantukan, Compostela Valley. Catog was immediately brought to the Pantukan Public Hospital, where he was declared dead-on-arrival. The victim sustained four gunshot wounds – two near his jaw, in his chest, and his stomach.
HUMAWAC, led by Catog, supported the campaign of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) farmers in Madaum, Tagum City. The farmers were asserting their right to the 145-hectare land, which is part of the area utilized by the Lapanday Food Corp. (LFC) as a banana plantation. The disputed land was already awarded to farmers in 1996 under the government’s agrarian reform program but continues to remain in the control of LFC. On December 14, 2016, HUMAWAC supported the protest camp-out of the MARBAI farmers.
Catog’s name was said to be on the 46th IBPA’s order of battle list. On January 5, 2017, his relative advised him to seek sanctuary, after receiving information that he was targeted by the military. The 46th IBPA is under the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
Agorde and Catog are latest victims of political killings this February. Two indigenous peoples’ leaders killed on February 3, while two were also gunned down on February 6. Three (3) farmers were killed on February 11.
On February 3, Lumad leader Matanem Lorendo Pocuan, tribe leader of the Omayam tribe in Cabanglasa, Bukidnon, and Renato Anglao, 42, a Manobo-Pulangihon and secretary-general of Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA), were gunned down in separate incidents. Pocuan resisted invitations from the Alamara paramilitary group to have members of their community join their ranks which earned him the ire of Alamara members. The latter tagged Pocuan and his community as NPA sympathizers. Anglao, on the other hand, was active in the fight for the defense of their ancestral domains and campaigned against military operations in his community.
On February 6, Emelito Rotimas, 48, a Lumad Mansaka and leader of Purok 6, Brgy. Lapu-Lapu, Maco, Compostela Valley, was shot eight (8) times by suspected military agents while Glenn Ramos, 39, was shot dead by personnel of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in his house in Maa, Davao City. Rotimas is a member of Anakpawis Partylist, while Ramos was a former coordinator of Bayan Muna in Davao City.
On February 11, two small-scale miners, Pepito Tiambong and Jerson Bito, were killed when the 73rd IBPA sprayed bullets in a mining tunnel in Sitio Sarog, Pangailan, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, believing members of the NPA were inside. The soldiers only stopped when there was no exchange from the other end. After inspecting the tunnel, they found Tiambong and Bito dead, along with four others who were injured. In a separate incident in Roxas City, Capiz, farmer Orlando Eslana, 48, was killed while five others were injured when armed personnel of the Tan Estate open fired at the farmers who were staging a kampuhan to assert their ownership of the land. Certificates of Land Ownership Agreement (CLOAs) had already been issued to farmer-beneficiaries but the Tans refused to distribute. The victims of the shooting were all members of the Kahublagan sang Mangunguma sa Capiz (KAMACA).