“Aguy, I have been shot!”
On Monday, Cristina Jose was reportedly on her way to Davao City to report a recent incident of blacklisting by members of the 67th Infantry Battalion of Pablo victims who attended the February 25-28 barricade at the DSWD regional office in Davao City.
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
BAGANGA, Davao Oriental, Philippines — Progressive groups in Davao City and Barug Katawhan, movement of typhoon Pablo victims, condemn the brutal killing of Cristina Jose, Monday evening in this town.
Jose, 40, a village councilor of Binondo village, reportedly just finished attending a council session and was on her way to leave the area for Davao City when shot at around 5:30 PM by three motorcycle-riding men upon reaching the poblacion (town center).
She was with her 11-year-old daughter, “D1” and niece, “Marivic” (names withheld for security reasons), who was driving the motorcycle that the three were riding, when the killing happened.
“We were supposed to get a van to take her, along with other companions to Davao,” Marivic said.
She narrated that they noticed three men waiting at the crossing of Baganga bridge, who they saw again when they reached a gas station, the men this time, were already on a motorcycle that had overtaken them.
Marivic said it was when the motorcycle, a black Honda TMX, slowed down to keep pace with them that they heard a popping sound.
“She told me to slow down thinking that it was our tire blowing up, so I stopped the motorcycle. It was then that she (Jose) noticed that she was hit,” Marivic further narrated.
“Aguy, I have been shot,” Marivic recounted Jose saying as she was hit on the left side of her back. “She would have fallen if I have not been able to support her with my shoulder and let down the motorcycle stand,” she added.
Marivic said they brought Jose to a nearest medical facility, a lying-in clinic, where Jose was declared dead on arrival.
An active community leader and a good mother
Jose is a first councilor of their village for two years, and a leader of Bayan Muna partylist in the area. One of those victimized by typhoon Pablo, Jose was among the leaders of Barug Katawhan which launched a series of protest actions to demand government action on their plight.
Husband, Danilo, said he could think of no other motive on the killing of his wife but her involvement in the series of protest actions of Pablo survivors.
The latest protest action was held last week in Davao City where over 5,000 angry Pablo victims stormed the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and brought out the relief goods to the streets. Police violently dispersed the protest and took back the relief goods.
“She was in the barricade. That is the only reason that we could think of. She has been to Davao many times to check on our daughter but nothing bad happened to her, only this,” Danilo said.
However, both Daniel and niece Marivic knew that there had been threats to Jose’s life before.
“She was branded by one Cafgu member, a certain Ramos, that she is a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Marivic said, adding that Ramos has been even telling residents that Jose was involved in an armed encounter in sitio (sub-village) Blackstone in Binondo, and that she was hosting the rebels.
Daniel, also recall of an incident between Ramos and Jose. “She told me that there was one time when Ramos was drunk and intentionally pushed a burning cigarette on her hand,” Danilo said, adding that Ramos was circulating rumors after this, telling the people that “your kagawad will not last long.”
Jose has been a village councilwoman for two terms winning the first post each time. “She helps everybody, even her enemies,” Marivic said.
According to Marivic, there were soldiers around their neighborhood last Saturday, one of them even approached one of their neighbors saying, “kanang inyong kagawad dili na magdugay (this councilor of yours will not last long).”
Jose, Marivic said, was also monitored while attending the recent camp-out of Pablo victims in Davao City.
“She had told me of a soldier, whom she recognized as a member of the 67th Infantry Battalion, but was wearing a police uniform at the rally outside the DSWD office in Davao City, who approached her, telling, “Uy kagawad naa man lagi ka dinhi. (Councilor, I didn’t know you’re here).”
“There is no doubt in my mind that they are the ones responsible for this,” Marivic said.
Jose’s older sister, Raquel, said she could not think of anybody else doing this to her sister. “She is a good person,” Raquel said.
Cristina is the seventh child among 11 siblings.
Her other daughter, “D,” a 17-year-old student in Davao City remembers her mother as a “good person and one who finds ways to provide for the family even if she had to borrow from someone.”
They were supposed to be planning her 18th birthday this coming April, where her mother committed a feast which both were excited about.
Jose left behind three children who are still going to school. “She is a hardworking wife. This house was built out of her effort. Even finding ways to send our children to school was her idea, I only helped,” Danilo said.
Another woman human rights defender killed
According to Juland Suazo of environmental group Panalipdan, which supports the movement of Barug Katawhan, Jose exposed irregularities in the distribution of relief goods by government agencies, and the “militarization of relief assistance.”
Jose was accordingly one of those who reported to rights group Karapatan an incident on January 17 where members of the 67th IB blocked residents who were coming from a relief operation of the DSWD, and accused them of intending to give the relief goods to the NPAs.
A Karapatan factsheet dated January 22 obtained by davaotoday.com shows an account of Jose narrating about how the members of the NPA were there as first responders in the wake of typhoon Pablo in Binondo village, giving food to the victims, attending to the wounded and even finding ways, such as renting chainsaws to clear the roads of fallen trees.
Jose’s account also told of how she complained about the local government officials relegating to the 67th IB their task of attending to the Pablo victims’ needs, even providing a budget to the military for the purchase of chainsaws which did not reach them.
She also made mention about how the military repacked the relief goods intended for the victims, and stashed the contents by one half, from 10 kilos of rice to five kilos.
On Monday, Jose was reportedly on her way to Davao City to report a recent incident of blacklisting by members of the 67th IB of Pablo victims who attended the February 25-28 barricade at the DSWD regional office.
Mary Ann Sapar, secretary general of women’s group Gabriela, condemns the brutal act and demands justice for Jose, whom she cited is an “acknowledged leader and rights champion in her community.”
Sapar said the military has blood in their hands over the murder of another woman defender of human rights who fell victim to the spate of extrajudicial killings of activists in Southern Mindanao.
Jose, according to Gabriela is the 15th victim of extrajudicial killings in the region, and the third woman killed under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
Even DSWD secretary Teresita “Dinky” Soliman, Sapar said, “does not escape accountability in this.”
“Throughout the struggle of barricading Pablo victims since the Montevista barricade, she did not cease mouthing off her insults, red-tagging and intrigue against the survivors,” Sapar said. “She was practically handing Cristina and all the survivors a death sentence with her contempt and red-baiting,” Sapar added. (With a report from Irene V. Dagudog, davaotoday.com)