Justice for Fr. Fausto Tentorio, disband all paramilitary groups – Karapatan

“The filing of murder complaints against soldiers and paramilitary perpetrators of the extrajudicial killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio is a long-overdue measure that shows how difficult it is to pursue justice in the Philippines, how the climate of impunity has pervaded given six long years that has passed since the crime against Tentorio, and why it is necessary to disband paramilitary groups,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, on reports that the National Bureau of Investigation has filed the complaint yesterday before the Department of Justice. 

Those included in the complaint for murder are Lieutenant Colonel Joven Gonzales and Major Mark Espiritu, and several members of the paramilitary group Bagani Special Force such as Jimmy Ato alias “Ian Mateo” and “Jimmy Intar;” Robert Ato alias “Roberto Ato” and “Roberto Intar;” Jan Corbala alias “Johnny Corbala,” “Jhon Corbala;” “Jun Karbala,” and “Kumander Iring;” Nene Durado alias “Nene Dorado;” “Kaing Labi”; Joseph Basol; Edgar Enoc; Romulo Tapgos; William Buenaflor alias “WB”; and alias “Katong”. 

Tentorio, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and a human rights activist well-loved by indigenous communities in Mindanao, was shot dead on October 17, 2011 at a parish in Arakan, North Cotabato, while members of the 57th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were conducting military operations in the area.

“The Bagani Special Force is among the 25 paramilitary groups under the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Aside from acting as force multipliers of the AFP for their bloody counter-insurgency campaigns against the people, they double as private armies of politicians and landlords, and as investment defense forces of corporations encroaching on land and communities in the rural areas,” Palabay said. 

Among the victims of these paramilitary groups is 16-year old Obello Bay-ao, a Grade 6 Lumad student of the Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Center, who was shot by 2 armed members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on September 5, 2017. 

Aside from Bay-ao, there have at least six other victims of extrajudicial killings by paramilitary forces under the Duterte administration, including the following: 

·         On July 30, 2016, six-months pregnant Makenet Gayoran was killed, while several community residents, including children, were injured in a shooting rampage in Brgy. Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon of the paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR), which is under the command of the 8th IBPA. 

·         On September 13, 2016, couple Totong Gascon, 63, and Rita Gascon, 66, both peasants from Sitio Kiatao, Brgy. Lanao, Arakan, Cotabato, were killed by Bagani paramilitary forces conducting military operations in the area since August 2016 with the 37th IBPA.

·         On February 3, 2017, Matanem Lorendo Pocuan, a respected leader of the Omayam tribe in Cabanglasan, was shot dead in Sitio Tapayanon, Brgy. Mangaod, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. The perpetrator was identified as Oba Ilocan, a known member of the Alamara paramilitary group. Alamara forces have been coercing members of Pocuan’s community to join them. Pocuan was tagged as a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) after refusing the Alamara’s offer, as well as opposing military operations in the community.

·         Peasant leader Willerme Agorde, 64, auditor of Mailuminado Farmers Association Incorporated (MAFAI) was shot by suspected members of Bagani paramilitary group on February 19, 2017, in front of his house at Brgy. Ilustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato. Agorde was among the active leaders of MAFAI who were asserting the farmers’ right to own the land they have been tilling since the 1950’s. 

·         On July 6, 2017, Ande Latuan, 30, an Umayamnon, was gunned down by elements of the Alamara led by Sammy Diwangan and five others in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. Ande is a member of the Pigyayungaan Indigenous tribal Association, which has long opposed the entry of destructive mining, logging and plantation projects in their ancestral land. 

“Corazon Aquino continued the dictator Marcos’s policy of using paramilitary groups to quell opposition to her anti-people policies. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III inflicted State terror and human rights violations in rural areas, especially Lumad and peasant communities, through butchers in the AFP and paramilitaries,” Palabay stated. 

“With Duterte pursuing the militarist path of his predecessors, in a more brazen and thuggish fashion through Oplan Kapayapaan and the drug war, the people should press the demand for the disbandment of all paramilitary and other groups being utilized by the regime to sow and inflict worse human rights violations,” she concluded.    

 

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