DAVAO CITY, Philippines – An elderly official of a farmers’ organization in North Cotabato province is the latest victim of extrajudicial killing, human rights group said.
Willerme Agorde, 64, auditor of the peasant group Mailuminado Farmers Association, Inc., died hours after he was shot in front of his home in Barangay Ilustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato around 5pm on Sunday.
Agorde’s son Renante, 40, said his father did not have any enemies in their village, and that it was possible that his father’s death may have been politically motivated.
“Extrajudicial killing gyud ning pagpatay niya, kay lider lider man ni akong amahan gud” (His death was clearly an example of extrajudicial killing, because my father was a leader [of a peasant group]), the younger Agorde told Davao Today in a phone interview.
Renante said that his father had been wary of being followed, and warned his family to always be careful, aware of threats to his and his family’s life because of his involvement in MAFAI.
He also expressed fears for his and his family’s life, as well as sorrow for his father’s death, whom he said was “too old to put up a fight.”
“Siyempre nahadlok mi kay wala gu’y kalaban-laban akong amahan, tapos pusilon lang? Tigulang na akong amahan ba. Bisag unsang laban wala siyay ka laban-laban kay tigulang na gud siya,” (Of course we’re afraid, because my father could not put up a fight, and they just shot him. My father was already old, he was too old to put up a fight), Renante said.
At 64 years old, Willerme had been one of the protesting farmers who staged a protest camp inside the school grounds of the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology December last year to claim the lands that they had been tilling before the school existed.
Read related story: Farmers demand ownership to unused school property lot
Willerme is the ninth victim of political killings since both the government and the New People’s Army broke their unilateral ceasefires earlier this month, according to human rights group Karapatan.
“This recent killing has put the number of reported political killings to nine (9) in three weeks, since February 3, 2017 when Pres. Duterte announced the termination of the unilateral ceasefire of the GRP with the NDFP. Those killed were either farmers or members of indigenous communities; six (6) of them were members of progressive organizations,” Karapatan said in a statement.
First in Karapatan’s list are Matanem Lorendo Pocuan, a tribal leader of the Omayam tribe, and Renato Anglao, a Manobo-Pulangihon and spokesperson of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association, who were gunned down on Feb. 3 on separate incidents. Pocuan had made enemies of the paramilitary group Alamara, who would tag him as a sympathizer of the New People’s Army after he refused their invitation to join the Alamara’s ranks. Meanwhile, Anglao had been “active in the fight for the defense of their ancestral domains and campaigned against military operations.”
Three days later on Feb. 6, Emelito Rotimas, a 48 year old Mansaka leader from Purok 6, Brgy. Lapu-Lapu in Maco, Compostella Valley, died of eight gunshot wounds, whom Karapatan suspects, were military agents. Glenn Ramos, 40, died of gunshot wounds after being fired upon by members of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group in his house in Maa, Davao City.The military claimed Ramos was a suuply officer of the NPA and had a standing warrant of arrest before 11th Judicial Region, Branch 6 for attempted homicide. Ramos’ family however, said he was a construction officer, refuting the military’s claims.
Karapatan claimed Rotimas was a member of the Anakpawis partylist, and Ramos was a former Bayan Muna coordinator.
Read related story: Former Bayan Muna coordinator killed in Davao
On Feb. 11, Pepito Tiambong and Jerson Bito, both small scale miners died after members of the 73rd Infantry Battalion allegedly fired upon a mining tunnel in Sitio Sarog, Pangailan, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, acting on tips that NPA rebels were hiding inside. Meanwhile, in Roxas City, Capiz, personnel of the Tan Estate sprayed bullets at protesting farmers, killing 48 year old Olando Eslana and injuring five others. Eslana and the five injured farmers were members of the Kahublagan sang Mangunguma sa Capiz.
On Feb. 16, Edweno Catog, a 44 year old Lumad Mansaka farmerm who was also a member of the peasant group Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela was gunned fown by two men, whom Karapatan suspects were linked to the 46th Infantry Battalion. Catog was among the farmers who supported the protest camp of the Madaum Agrarian Reform beneficiaries Association, Inc., in Madaum Tagum City against the Lapanday Foods Corporation.
Read related story: Activist farmer shot in Pantukan town
Meanwhile, Police Regional Office 11 Regional Director P. Supt. Manuel Gaerlan said in a press conference here that the ongoing crackdown of communist rebels would not target activists, despite branding them as “communist propaganda organizations.”
“The police is only targeting those who violated the law, I will make this clear. Your police are only enforcers of the law, there is nothing stated in the law where mere membership of the Communist Party of the Philippines is a violation of the law,” Gaerlan said. (davaotoday.com)
Read related story: Davao activists fear ‘all out war’ vs Reds will target them too