Karapatan denounces killing of peasant couple in Sorsogon

Human rights alliance Karapatan expressed strong indignation on the killing of an elderly couple in Sorsogon, as the group warned that “the bloodbath in the Philippines will continue after the Duterte regime, if the next president will continue its murderous legacy and maintain the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).”

“We express our strong indignation on the killing of Silvestre Fortades, Jr. and Rosemarie Galias, who were not spared by the Duterte regime and its terror machinery, the NTF-ELCAC. We call on the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, as well as international bodies, to include the murder of Fortades and Galias in the investigation on the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte presidency,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Karapatan - Sorsogon reported that the elderly couple, Fortades, aged 71, and Galias, aged 68, were shot multiple times past 7 a.m. on Saturday, January 15, 2022, in Brgy. San Vicente, Barcelona, Sorsogon. They were in their tricycle, which was parked along the road, when two pairs of motorcycle-riding men fired at Fortades. When Galias saw that Fortades was shot, she took their four-year-old granddaughter who was with Fortades, supposedly to run for safety. The men, however, also shot Galias.

The child survived and was unharmed after she ran away from the scene but was left severely traumatized after witnessing the whole incident.

Palabay asserted that “the couple was a clear and obvious target of the killers, shooting them multiple times, one after the other. The brazen and ruthless manner of the killings is very similar to the murders of many activists, alleged NPA supporters and sympathizers, ordinary civilians, throughout Duterte’s six years in power. Only the callous murderers in the ranks of the military, police, and their hired killers, with not an inch of respect for human rights, can execute such crimes.”

Fortades was dead on the spot while Galias was brought to the hospital but eventually died. The elderly couple sells garlic, onion, and other agricultural produce for a living, which they deliver in small stores on weekends. On weekdays, Fortades works as a mechanic and repairs motorcycles.

Fortades and Galias were both members of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Sorsogon and Anakpawis Partylist - Sorsogon.

According to Fortades’ daughter (name withheld for safety), her father called her on Friday, January 14, the night before the incident. She said that Fortades told her that two men, alleged State agents and surrenderees who he named as alias Kambal Daku and Kintoy, together with two other men, went to their house that night. Fortades was told by the men to turn in one of her children, who was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army, to surrender or else something bad will happen to the couple.

“This threat against the couple the night before they were killed can only come from State forces under the Duterte regime. We condemn the use of their so-called ‘balik-loob’ or reintegration program to further sow terror in the communities and transform these alleged surrenderees into military assets in their bloody war on terror against the people. This is clearly not reintegration but a dirty tactic to turn the people in the community against each other, instill fear and justify the attacks. This has led to more killings, arrests, and other rights violations, a dirty handiwork of the NTF-ELCAC,” the Karapatan official said.

As of this writing, suspicious-looking men are seen roaming at the wake of the couple. Fortades’ daughter also reported that the police returned her father’s wallet empty, which she disbelieved because her father would always save money from their earnings.

“We hold State forces under Duterte and the NTF-ELCAC accountable in the killing of Fortades and Galias. We demand that these murderers stop the threats against the couple’s family. Towards the end of the Duterte regime, we call on the people to continue vigilance and defeat their vicious attempt of continuing its murderous legacy with another president, with the same bloody record and utter disregard for rights and the calls of the people towards genuine peace and justice in the country,” Palabay ended.