Karapatan demands justice for slain Moro farmer in Sarangani

Photo from Bulatlat

Karapatan condemns in the strongest terms the reported brutal killing of a Moro farmer by elements of the 38th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and Task Force Gensan in Barangay Tambilil, Kiamba, Sarangani province last July 27, 2023.

Alvin Ponto, a 52-year-old abaca farmer, was cooking breakfast in his family’s hut at around 9 a.m., when soldiers led by a Lt. Col. Candole positioned themselves outside while the other military men barged in and shot the victim. According to Ponto’s sons who were nearby harvesting abaca at the time, they rushed to within ten meters of their hut when they heard the gunshots, and saw the soldiers in full battle gear. They also saw their wounded father run towards the abaca field to hide. 

One of Ponto’s sons shouted at the soldiers to spare his father’s life as he was a civilian. When the elder Ponto heard his son’s voice, he returned to the hut, thinking he would be safe. The soldiers finished him off, however, with a knife thrust to his neck. Not satisfied, the soldiers also smashed the victim’s private parts with their rifle butts, causing severe swelling. Ponto is reported to have sustained two gunshot wounds to the chest and another two to his shoulder. The soldiers then searched the victim’s house, looking for a 12-gauge shotgun allegedly owned by Ponto, but found no firearms.

Ponto’s murder follows the same vicious pattern seen in other heinous killings of civilians perpetrated in the course of the brutal counter-insurgency war. Before he was killed, Ponto had been accused by the military of being a member of the New People’s Army, a curious assertion considering that Ponto was a known abaca farmer living just a few hundred meters from the 38th IBPA’s detachment in Barangay Tambilil. 

Between July 10 and July 26 this year, Ponto was hounded by soldiers five times in an attempt to recruit him as a military asset. Ponto disclosed to his wife that he had been given a tracking device, a cellphone and live bullets by an intelligence officer named Art Sandoval.

After he had been killed, Ponto’s wife pleaded with the soldiers to allow their family to bury him within 24 hours, in accordance with Muslim custom. But the family was only able to retrieve the body at another location, and only after his wife saw the soldiers inflict wounds on their fellow soldiers’ faces to give credence to the military’s claims that Alvin Ponto had been killed in an encounter. 

The family received information that it was Lt. Redemptor Baligod, the leader of Task Force Gensan who killed Alvin Ponto.

Such brazen violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are rapidly becoming an indelible marker of the Marcos Jr. regime’s dirty counter-insurgency war, which deliberately blurs distinctions between unarmed civilians and combatants.

We must determinedly expose and put a stop to the Marcos Jr. regime’s deliberate targeting and endangerment of civilians and other violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law, which have no place in a civilized society.