Human rights defender, peasant organizer killed in Negros Oriental
The Duterte regime has emboldened State security forces, including private armies of government officials, to step up attacks against peasant communities contending against landlords. A sickening level of impunity has permeated all levels of government, so much so that local officials and their hired goons brazenly attack human rights defenders and members of peasant organizations to push forward with their landgrabbing ventures. This is the brand of leadership that Duterte has further inspired – a kind that encourages the outright violation of people’s rights.
The oppression and repression of peasant communities have no doubt intensified during this regime, which continued the same neoliberal policies and programs and allowed the preservation and worsening of this feudal set-up. In this light, join us in condemning this latest shooting incident that resulted to the death of a woman human rights defender and a member of a peasant organization; the attack also left a youth organizer wounded. The three were part of a fact finding mission led by Karapatan Negros Oriental that sought to shed light on human rights violations committed by private goons doing the bidding of their political patrons. Let us amplify the call for justice, continue the struggle for the distribution of land to the tillers, and campaign to end the many forms of fascist attacks against the Filipino people.
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT:
A three-day fact-finding mission (FFM) was held in different areas in Bayawan, Negros Oriental province from November 26-28, 2017, to investigate reports of human rights violations in the area, in light of harassment incidents perpetrated by members of the private army of a political clan in the said community.
The 30-member FFM Team, led by Karapatan Negros Oriental coordinator Elisa “Nene” Badayos, was on the last day of the mission; they arrived in Brgy. San Ramon, Bayawan at around 11am. While on their way to enter the area, they were blocked and harassed by around 5-6 goons, reportedly belonging to the private army of Bayawan Mayor Pryde Henry Teves and utilized by the Gaudiels. The Gaudiels are a political clan in the area and are known allies of the current mayor. Armed men inquired as to their destination and the purpose of the mission, all while aiming their shotgun at the team’s vehicle. A motorcycle driven by locals who were guiding the mission vehicle confronted and negotiated with the guards, explaining to them the goal of the FFM team. They were eventually allowed to pass.
The team arrived in the area around 12 noon, separated into groups and conducted interviews. At around 2:30pm, while the rest of the FFM team conducted case documentation, a group composed of Badayos, Patrick Torres of Farmers Development Center (FARDEC), village watchman Eleuterio Moises, also member of Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association, Angel Trocio of the Women’s Resource Center of Visayas and Carmen Matarlo of Kabataan Partylist readied to leave to go to Nangka Barangay Hall, Bayawan City for a courtesy call, and subsequently to the police station to file a blotter report regarding the harassment incident earlier.
They went on two separate motorcycles – Patrick and Angel were on board the first motorcycle, while Carmen and Elisa were on the second vehicle driven by Eleuterio. The two vehicles were on a convoy, with the motorcycle boarded by Patrick and Angel in front.
While on their way, after around 20 minutes of travel, Patrick and Angel noticed another motorcycle tailing them. Afterwards, they heard at least six gunshots. Angel glanced back to see what happened to Elisa, Carmen and Eleuterio. She saw the assailants wearing black jackets and used black handguns to shoot the victims. After the shooting, Patrick and Angel saw the victims fall off the motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle used by the perpetrators was only wearing a cap, revealing his face. Fearing that they were next to be targeted, Patrick ordered their motorcycle driver to continue towards a safe distance. When the people started to flock on the crime scene, the perpetrators immediately left.
Patrick and Angel waited at a safe distance and approached the group when they observed that the armed men had already left. Together with the residents in the community, they brought the three towards the Bayawan District Hospital. Elisa and Eleuterio were pronounced dead-on-arrival, while Carmen was in critical condition. Carmen was eventually brought to a hospital in Dumaguete. As of this writing, she is now conscious and responsive, and is in stable condition in a hospital in Cebu City. Elisa’s remains were transferred to Cebu where her family is preparing for her interment, while Eleuterio’s body was brought to her family back in Bayawan.
BACKGROUND OF THE INCIDENT:
According to Karapatan Negros and Farmers Development Center- Cebu (FARDEC-CEBU), the armed goons were stationed there by the Gaudiels, a landed political clan in the area, in connivance with the current mayor of Bayawan, Pryde Henry Teves. The said goons would harass residents and are hostile against peasant organizations who support the residents’ assertion of their land rights. The land guarded by these goons covers more than 100 hectares and is considered public land, an area that the Gaudiel family plans to usurp. According to locals, the Gaudiels presented a tax declaration proving that they have claims to the land, but no title was presented because the land has long been classified as public. The area is declared “alienable and disposable” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which means farmers can apply to till the land, despite it remaining in the public domain.
When the Gaudiels first claimed ownership of the land, farmers and organizations sought the help of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to facilitate its distribution and place the land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The Department said that the land is categorized as “alienable and disposable” and that the DENR has jurisdiction over public land declared as such. Farmers in Bayawan currently have applications pending in the DENR. Despite the land being clearly declared publicly owned, the Gaudiels continue to cordon the land by putting in their armed goons to guard the premises and intimidate the peasant community in the area. The residents however have stood their ground and have refused to leave. The goons have marked Elisa Badayos as one of the peasant organizers and human rights worker in the area who have helped sustained the struggle of farmers against landgrabbing.
The Gaudiel clan has been in various local government positions since the time of Marcos. Felix Gaudiel Jr. was the city mayor for three terms from 1968-1983. Rene Gaudiel was the mayor of Bayawan in 2010, running alongside Teves in the same political party. Now, Rene Gaudiel’s wife, Merlita Gaudiel, sits as the city’s councilor. According to locals, armed goons have been deployed in the area since 2015 and have been responsible for various incidents of harassment and threats against farmers and peasant organizations.
Elisa Badayos and several other organizations have started investigating such incidents and have organized the peasant community in the area to press for their right to the land. Badayos has been a human rights activist since the martial law period under Ferdinand Marcos. She served as an organizer of urban poor communities in Cebu, where she met her husband Jimmy Badayos, a leader of the Kilusang Mayo Uno in Cebu province and one of the leaders of the Visayan Glass workers. In 1990, under the Corazon Aquino administration, Jimmy was abducted by the Cebu Metrodiscom, led by its then commander Panfilo Lacson, now a sitting senator. Elisa sought justice for her husband’s forced disappearance and became an active human rights worker of Desaparecidos, an organization of families of the disappeared and a member organization of Karapatan, while raising her four children and exposing them to the people’s struggle for justice. In 2007, Elisa transferred to Negros Oriental and served as a Karapatan human rights worker in the province, partly to evade the continued harassment and threats against her. On October 5, 2012, Elisa’s daughter Jimmylisa and her husband Calixto Vistal were abducted by the police and the military in Cebu. Both were later on surfaced and charged with trumped-up cases; Jimmylisa was eventually released from detention while her husband was wrongfully convicted. Elisa worked for the release of her daughter and assisted her son-in-law.
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body;
2. An end to the killing, targetting, harassment, and intimidation of human rights defenders, development workers, and members and leaders of progressive organizations;
3. The immediate prosecution of all elements of private armed groups and their political patrons involved in the illegal arrest and detention of the victims;
4. The immediate passage of House Bill 1617, or the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Bill, and all such measures that aim to protect human rights defenders;
5. An end to the Duterte regime’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan which encourages State security forces to threaten, harass, arbitrarily and illegally arrest development workers tagged as ‘enemies of the State’;
6. The Philippine Government to continue the peace talks and build towards the advancement of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which includes the issue of free land distribution to farmers and farm workers;
7. The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly; and
8. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.
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