Rights group condemns killing of peasant leader in South, scores AFP's bounty offer for soldiers

Celso Pojas speaking at a rally At the 3rd Saturday gathering of families of victims of human rights violations, the human rights group Karapatan today expressed outrage over the extrajudicial killing of peasant leader Celso Pojas down South.

Pojas was killed by motorcycle-riding gun men in Davao City, a method associated with military death squads implementing Oplan Bantay Laya.

"Clearly, the military have not ceased their policy of extrajudicial killings under Oplan Bantay Laya," said Ruth Cervantes, Karapatan Public Information Officer.

Karapatan extended their sympathy to the family and colleagues of Pojas, 45, who is Secretary General of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao.

"We are with them in the fight for justice," said Cervantes who likewise expressed their sympathy to the victims of summary execution in the RCBC-Laguna heist. "The government has an obligation to go after the perpetrators of this heinous crime."

The rights group also scored the bounty offer by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its soldiers under the "follow-on operational funds."

Karapatan said that it is no more than a euphemism for a bounty reward and called upon the Supreme Court and Senate to stop it.

The human rights group expressed alarm at the thought that soldiers would become bounty hunters, saying that this could spawn more human rights abuses.

"In the experience of Sulu and Basilan, people were falsely accused as Abu Sayyaf terrorists in exchange for money and were arrested, detained and tortured as a result," Cervantes said.

"Military operatives can make blanket accusations and merely claim a person or a group of people to be rebels and neutralize them so that they could claim the reward. That is dangerous!" Cervantes exclaimed.

In 2007, international fact-finding missions, including that of a UN special procedure found the military to be guilty of conducting extrajudicial executions as a result of its counter-insurgency operations. Amnesty International in particular said that people are being killed because of their ideology.

Cervantes said, "Now, we are afraid that more people would be killed because of a price tag that the government has placed on their head."###