What started as an invitation to lunch by a persistent former colleague in the activist movement turned into an attempt on the life of the secretary-general for Southern Mindanao of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

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Marked for Death. Tatay Mancio narrates how he was nearly killed by assassins in Tagum City. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

By Grace S. Uddin

DAVAO CITY — It all started with a visit by a woman named Nene at around noon on Jan. 22. She invited Amancio Carmelo to lunch so they could catch up on old times.

Tatay Mancio, as Carmelo is known among friends and colleagues, told Nene that they were busy preparing for an anti-government demonstration in Tagum City that day in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre and that, given how busy they were preparing for the rally, going out for lunch was out of the question.

But the woman, whom Tatay Mancio recalled as having used the nickname Len in the past, was persistent. Its been a while since they talked, she told him. Tatay Mancio had known Nene as a fellow organizer for a Lumad group in Montevista town, Davao del Norte, years back. He finally relented and agreed to meet with Nene after the rally.

Later that day, after having dinner with Nene at a restaurant, two men on a motorcycle tried to kill Tatay Mancio. The assassins missed, and the old man scampered away to safety. The woman disappeared. Tatay Mancio, in an interview with davaotoday.com, was convinced that the woman set him up.

Why would anybody want to kill Tatay Mancio can be explained by the fact that he is the secretary-general for Southern Mindanao of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, whose members and leaders have been among the victims of the series of political killings in the country.

According to human-rights groups, which have documented more than 800 such killings since 2001, the increasing use by assassins of former colleagues to lure potential victims to harm indicate that the killings are increasingly becoming more systematic, if desperate.

Although Tatay Mancio, who became a full-time peasant organizer in 1999, knew Nene, something about her request for a meeting bothered him, so that he went to their meeting place at the Landbank in Tagum earlier than schedule, to see if the woman was there and to check the place for security purposes.

To his surprise, Nene was there earlier than him. I guess she already saw me first because when I spotted her, she immediately got off the motorcycle, which she said was being driven by her brother-in-law, and walked toward me, Mancio narrated.

Mancio grew unseasy, so he suggested that they go to his office instead and talk there. But the woman declined and said they should have dinner at Elenas Restaurant. During dinner, Nene asked about Tatay Mancios activities as well as those of his colleagues at the KMP.

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