Terror Stalks Western Visayas

May. 16, 2007



Vol. VII, No. 13 May 6- 12, 2007

BACOLOD CITY – The rampant political killings, disappearances and harassment of leaders and organuzers of progressive groups, which are allegedly being committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bring back memories of the Martial Law era the period when tyranny reigned in the country.

This region, Western Visayas, has not been spared. In Panay and Negros islands, several cases of enforced disappearances and tales of harassment had been documented by peoples organizations. These, however, remain unsolved.

Recent attacks

In Iloilo, the whereabouts of Leonilo Arado, regional chairperson of Bayan-Panay and Coordinator of militant party-list Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado, officer of the Samahan nga mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (SELDA-Panay), who were abducted after their vehicle was ambushed by unidentified armed men the night of April 12 remain unknown.

Surviving the ambush-slay attempt, Jose Ely Liboy Garachico, officer of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights)-Panay told investigators that they were on their way home from San Jose, Antique when the incident took place. The three had just attended the Anakpawis regional assembly.

Garachico said they noticed a green Mitsubishi van tailing them from Guimbal town, 24 kms. south of Iloilo City. Garachico, who was driving, said he tried to outrun the van but it overtook them at Barangay (village) Parara, Tigbauan, Iloilo and cut their path.

Gararicho, who is confined at the Iloilo Doctors Hospital, said that their black Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck with plate number FEA-789 was blocked by the green Mitsubishi van with plate number FVF-463 at Brgy. Cabanbanan, around 7 kms. from Iloilo City, 9:30 p.m. last April 12.

Passengers of the green Mitsubishi van fired at them, Garachico said. He was hit in the neck, after which he was ordered to alight while his companions were transferred to the van. The attackers left him and sped off with their pick up truck and the van bringing with them his two companions.

Their pick-up truck was found burned at a sugarcane field at dawn of April 13 in Janiuay town, 33 kms. northwest of Iloilo City or 30 kms. from where the victims were waylaid.

Insp. Efren Nimbra, Janiuay police chief, said residents of Barangay Guadalupe reported to the police that they saw the van in flames shortly after hearing a loud explosion between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.

Committed activists

Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado was a student leader in Iloilo during pre-martial days. She went underground when martial law was declared.

According to her comrades, at 18 years old she was already committed to the struggle to end the dictatorship and to fight for a better life for the majority of our people.

She had been in and out of detention centers in Iloilo, Cebu and Ipil, several times: the first was in 1973 and the last was during the Aquino administration. She was called by government authorities as Kumander Posa. She twice escaped detention centers in Iloilo.

She resumed schooling at the University of the Philippiones (UP) in Iloilo, in the 1990s, and finished a degree in Political Science while attending to her children. Since then she has devoted much of her life to working for the freedom of political detainees and helping thecause-oriented movement in Iloilo and other provinces in Panay.

Her friends said that Luing, as she is fondly called by friends, has been in the forefront of organizing former political detainees in Iloilo and Panay through SELDA and was one of those who successfully lobbied before the city government for the construction, in one of Iloilo Citys plazas, of a memorial listing the names of Martial Law victims of killings and forced disappearances.

Garachico is another veteran figure in Panay insofar as human rights activism is concerned. According to his kin and comrades, it was during his seminary days that he first came to know about the realities of oppression and repression. When he left the seminary he devoted his life to working for the defense and promotion of the rights of the basic sectors.

Arado is the youngest of the three. He hailed from a poor peasant family in Agusan del Sur. He joined the Carmelites religious formation in the late 1980s. It was during his formation in Agusan, and later in Negros and Cebu, where he learned the social teachings of the Church, and was awakened more during his community immersions, witnessing the miserable lives and persistent struggles of the urban poor, poor farmers and sugar workers.

He left the congregation before he was to start his theology formation. He thought he could serve the people better by being one with them. That moved him to worked full-time organizing farmers groups in Cebu, and later in Panay, where he got more deeply involved with peasant communities.

Culprits: military and death squads

Fred Caa, national council member of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights) said the military and its death squads have brought the practice of political killings and enforced disappearances to Panay.

These unabated attacks on organizers and officers of peoples organizations are, no doubt, done by coldhearted elements of state security forces who are on a killing spree resulting from Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos deliberate maneuver to stay in power and eliminate mass opposition, said Caa.

Caa said that these waves of human rights violations result from the counter-insurgency program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dubbed Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) 1 and 2, which is aimed at destroying the political and military structure of its enemy. In the course of launching offensives against perceived state destabilizers and threats to national security, Caa said, Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts in the AFP have willfully suppressed the inherent right of the masses to be free from social and economic injustices.

To date, Karapatan records show that there are now more than 850 victims of extra-judicial killings and more than 180 victims of enforced disappearance nationwide since 2001.

None of these cases have been solved, and most of these were perpetrated by military operatives and vigilante groups actively involved in counter-insurgency operations.

Usual denials

Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the 32nd Civil Relations Unit of the AFP which is based in Iloilo denied accusations that the military is behind the incident.

Marquez asserted that investigators should also look at other possible angles like business conflicts involving the victims, ambush me theory, and the rift within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) where, he said, disgruntled elements may have a direct hand in the incident.

Just recently the Philippine Armys 3rd Infantry Division, through its public information officer Lt. Col. David Tan and 301st Infantry Battalion Commander Col. Renato David, vehemently denied having knowledge of the incident and the whereabouts of the missing before the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court Branch 34.

Not the first

Arado and Dominado are not the first activists to be abducted in Panay.

Perseus Geagoni has been missing since December 2005. Roberto Marapo and Pacifico Borris were abducted in May 2006. Felicidad Katalbas was abducted in Sitio (sub-village) Mohon, Kabankalan City last January. Their families fear that they might have been killed by their abductors, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Negros.

Romeo Baldevarona of CHR-Negros said that the fate of the missing activists remains a big mystery, and admitted that his office is under intense pressure to complete their investigations of cases of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Baldevarona said a task force they have created since last year is undertaking a speedy and extensive investigation.

Provincial and concerned police units involved in the investigation have said they have no suspects yet.

Dominados children appeal

Dominados daughters, May Wan and Tamara Dominado and the relatives of Nilo Arado have repeatedly appealed to local and national authorities to surface Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado.

They said their lives would never have a closure unless Dominado and Arado are surfaced.

They also slammed the military to stop their usual denials and deceptions, because they are the only ones who have the gall, capacity and contempt to do such unmerciful act to the Left.

Habeas corpus

Last April was the hearing for the writ of habeas corpus case filed by Dominados brother, Luis Arches Posa and Rosemary Dula-ogon Arado, wife of Leonilo Arado against the 3rd ID commanding officer Maj. Gen. Jovenal Narcise, Lt. Col. Mariano Perez, and Col. David.

Tan stressed in court that he has no knowledge of the whereabouts of the abducted activists and further said that even the Army wants to know where they are.

He added that the military only deals with the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the armed groups but not with progressive groups.

But these statements of the Army seem inconsistent with what they have been doing.

Vilification campaign

In Negros Occidental, there are reports that the 303rd IB had been campaigning in the highlands against Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis, GABRIELA Womens Party, Migrante among others, tagging them as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA.

Last April 25, 2007, the Paghidaet Development Group (PDG) of Kabankalan City arranged a dialogue between the Army and several peoples organization regarding charges that the Army is occupying public buidings such as barangay halls and health centers in remote areas of Kabankalan city.

Col. Norman Flores, Commanding Officer of the 303rd IB claimed that they are non-partisan and are not campaigning against any party-list group. He said that they are merely educating the people on the dangers of communism.

Baldevarona said that the Army should not be deployed in populated places even if there is consent from the barangay captain or chief executive. Bulatlat

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