Masbate fast becoming Bicol’s killing fields—Karapatan

Karapatan condemns the rampant extrajudicial killings of civilians in Masbate, with the latest killing bringing to 27 the number of victims who had been summarily killed in the course of the Marcos Jr. regime’s counter-insurgency war on the island.

On April 2, 2024, farmer Elorde “Nonoy” Almario was abducted, beaten up and summarily executed by two CAFGU elements, one of them identified as Alvin Masamoc. Four days later, on April 4, former barangay captain Nonong Monteseban was also seized in the same barrio, beaten up and about to be killed by the same CAFGU elements but was let go when his abductors realized they had the wrong person.

With 27 victims of counter-insurgency related extrajudicial killings in less than two years of Marcos Jr.’s rule, Masbate is fast becoming known as the “killing fields” of Bicol.

The island witnessed one of the most gruesome incidents on September 21, 2023 when farmer couple Aimee and Jover Villegas were killed in the two-hectare plot of which they were caretakers. The military later said that the couple were killed in an armed encounter, but the nature of their injuries would demonstrate the falsity of this claim. Aimee’s throat and chin and the right side of her neck had been slashed. She had stab wounds in her left breast and was shot twice in the back. Jover’s left eye was gouged out and he had gunshot wounds to the nape and back. These injuries point to the brutal torture they suffered at the hands of the soldiers before they were summarily killed.

In still another incident, on December 20, 2023, farmer Francis Francisco was gathering firewood with his 11-year-old son near his home in Bagacay, Mobo, Masbate when he was killed by two masked men wielding handguns. He succumbed to nine gunshot wounds to different parts of his body. When the gunmen later took off their masks, one of them was recognized as a certain Kanoy, a rebel returnee.

These killings are taking place in Masbate against a backdrop of intense military terror. On the morning of January 29, 2024, ten uniformed soldiers and CAFGU swooped down on Tubog, Pio V. Corpus, Masbate and rounded up seven farmers—Ruben Menchavez, Ronel Rondina, Inday Wilyn, Macmac Catapan, Cadong Mendoza, his wife Gingging and their 9-year-old son—and ordered them to accompany the troops on their military operation. When they arrived at the house of Johnny Compuesto, 82, the soldiers were joined by other troops who were masked, with some wearing civilian clothes. All in all, the soldiers numbered 27.

The adults were interrogated, threatened, slapped and punched, all witnessed by the boy, who was traumatized and crying. Even the old man was interrogated and slapped by the soldiers, who later stole from him five fighting cocks, a large solar panel, two big cauldrons and two machetes. The farmers were only released at 1 p.m. with the soldiers leaving them the lame “apology” that all they wanted was to scare them, not to kill them.

These systematic acts of terror indicate that de facto martial law prevails in Masbate. Karapatan demands a stop to the serious violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law perpetrated in Masbate by Marcos Jr.’s soldiers against civilians in the course of his regime’s brutal counter-insurgency war. #