Pamalakaya member in Batangas gunned down, PAF men tagged as assailants
A member of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) was gunned down by alleged military assassins this morning in Barangay Bukal, Calatagan in Batangas.
In a human rights alert forwarded by the Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakdagat (Habagat) to the regional office of Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog, the report said the killing incident took place in Barangay Bukal, at around 6:00 in the morning.
The victim, Wilfredo Gonzalez, 52 years old, was driving an elf-truck when the two motor-riding assailants dressed in black bonnets stopped Gonzalez and shot Gonzalez and his companion Noli de Castro at close range.
Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chairperson and Habagat president Isabelo Alicaya said the assassin could be elements of the Philippine Air Force based in the province.
According to Alicaya, two to three days before the assassination of Gonzalez, PAF elements went to Gonzalez house in Barangay Bukal, and were looking for him because of his involvement in the community fight for the distribution of 2,000 hectares of Ayala lands to farmers and fisherfolk in 10 coastal barangays in Calatagan.
“The military is also against his active support and participation in all activities and protests staged by Habagat and Pamalakaya. As far as the Armed Forces of the Philippines is concerned, Gonzalez is an object of extrajudicial killing,” Alicaya added.
For his part, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dared Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and AFP Chief of Staff Alexander Yano to immediately pullout the unit of the Philippine Air Force and other units of the AFP, including all military agents and liquidation squads deployed in the first and second district of Batangas, so an independent and objective fact-finding mission and investigation could take place.
“Many people and witnesses want to come out in the open and expose the criminal activities and brutal campaign of the AFP in the first and second district of Batangas. But they are afraid to issue statements and act as witnesses because they are afraid of the liquidation squad of the armed forces,” added Hicap.
Hicap said the defense secretary and the chief of the AFP must allow the top military officials in Batangas to be subjected to any kind of independent investigation on the killing of the Pamalakaya member and his companion.
“Secretary Teodoro and AFP Chief Yano should compel their military officials and intelligence personnel in Batangas to testify and be subjected to grueling probe in case the investigation on the Gonzalez-de Castro murder kick off under the auspices of the Commission on Human Rights and the one which will be designated perhaps the House and the Senate committee on human rights,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
The militant group made the challenge to the defense chief and AFP head in lieu of its plan to request the Senate and the House Committees on human rights and defense to investigate the Gonzalez-de Castro double political murder case.
Pamalakaya said the killing of Gonzalez was part of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and Oplan Bantay Laya II- the counter-insurgency program being executed in the entire province of Batangas, its main objective according to Hicap, is to eliminate not only members of the New People’s Army, but also aboveground activists like Gonzalez, who is very critical of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and active in exposing the human rights violations of state forces in the province.
“The brutal murder of Gonzalez and his companion Noli is the handiwork of the liquidation squad of Malacañang and the AFP. This is a fact and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her company of extrajudicial killers cannot deny that even if they move and heaven and earth just to make a cover up. This is regime is responsible for the extrajudicial killing of not less than 900 political activists, and definitely behind the killing of Gonzalez and de Castro,” added Pamalakaya. #