Karapatan: Killing of barangay chief in Tapaz, Capiz meant to silence truth about Tumandok massacre

The Duterte regime is trying to further terrorize Tumandok communities in Panay with the murder of Julie Catamin, chief of Brgy. Roosevelt in Tapaz, Capiz, human rights watchdog Karapatan said, as the group assailed Catamin’s killing as a “cowardly act that is meant to silence those who expose the truth about the arrests and killings of Tumandok members and leaders during the joint police and military operations in Tapaz, Capiz, and Calinog, Iloilo last December 30.”

“Catamin stood up for the innocence of the arrested Tumandok in the barangay and asserted that the ammunition found in their place were planted by the police — putting a serious dent in the sham narrative peddled by State forces that the 16 arrested Tumandok farmers last December were rebels and using the infamous ‘nanlaban’ story to justify the killings of nine Tumandok,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Palabay continued that the killing of Catamin “only has one clear and undeniable motive: to cover up the State’s modus operandi of planting evidence to justify illegal arrests and massacres in the conduct of its brutal and bloody counterinsurgency campaign of State terrorism.”

Catamin was gunned down by unidentified riding-in-tandem assailants around 9 a.m. in Brgy. Malitbog in Tapaz, Capiz yesterday, February 28. Earlier that day, according to some residents of Brgy. Roosevelt, several individuals, who identified themselves from the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, went looking for Catamin.

The barangay chief was among the first to blow the whistle on the mass arrests of Tumandok in Tapaz, Capiz December 30 last year, claiming in a Facebook post, that the ammunition and arms supposedly recovered by the police from four of those arrested in Brgy. Roosevelt, were planted; in the same Facebook post, Catamin also sought help from government agencies regarding the arrests.

Last Thursday, February 25, Catamin received an invitation from a certain Lt. Estrada to visit the headquarters of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Calinog, Iloilo. The barangay chief reported that the military personnel warned that he knew about the residents of Brgy. Roosevelt asking Bayan Muna for help, along with lawyers and Church institutions, which they alleged are being used by the New People's Army. Because of this, Lt. Estrada threatened that events similar to the mass arrests on December 30 could also happen to them.

“There is nothing but sheer shamelessness in the military’s call for 'justice' for Catamin’s death and their claim that the brave barangay chief is their ‘ally’ when this cold-blooded murder — along with the massacre of Tumandok leaders in Panay — are on their hands. If the military is truly seeking justice for Catamin’s death and peace in Panay, they must hold themselves accountable for their fascist attacks and terrorist rampage upon Tumandok communities. We will not stop in seeking justice to hold the perpetrators of this dastardly act accountable,” the Karapatan official ended.