, October 28, 2005
(MALAYA) PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday ordered the police to conduct a "speedy, impartial and full-blown investigation (on the) senseless killings" of militant leaders, the latest of which was that the president of the Hacienda Luisita labor union in Tarlac.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President wants all perpetrators brought to justice.

"The PNP has been ordered to leave no stone unturned to establish the motive behind the brutal attacks, to prevent the reign of violence and to make the perpetrators pay for their crimes," he said.

Bunye asked all parties concerned to refrain from speculating and making baseless accusations while investigations are ongoing.

Ricardo Ramos, 47, Barangay captain of Mapalacsiao, a village within the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City and president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (Catlu) was shot dead Tuesday inside his home.

On Wednesday morning, Bayan Muna-Pampanga leader Francisco Rivera was shot dead together with friends Angel David and Von John Maniniti.

Federico de Leon, regional chairman the Anak Bayan partylist group in Bulacan, was shot dead Wednesday evening.

The most recent spate of killings of militants started on October 15 with Flor Collantes, Bayan Muna secretary general for Central Luzon, followed by Rolly Soriano, a province-level party officer who was shot dead the next day.

On October 18, Bayan Muna’s headquarters in Barangay Matataib in Tarlac City was set afire by still unidentified men.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita shared the suspicions of Tarlac Rep. Benigno Aquino III that a "third force" might be behind the Ramos incident as he said some forces were seen taking advantage of the situation at Hacienda Luisita.

He said some groups are out to create unrest and instability in the area with the end goal of getting the administration blamed.

He said among the groups that may benefit from unrest are the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

"They know there is a volatile situation there especially because the Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of the former president and the former president, Mrs. (Corazon) Aquino, happens to be also with a movement that’s calling for the President’s resignation," he said.

Leftist and militant groups are blaming Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan. They said that since Palparan became chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division on Sept. 2, at least 19 activists have been killed in Central Luzon. They noted that Palparan’s previous assignments – Samar and Occidental Mindoro – were also marked by the killing of activist leaders.

Ermita defended Palparan, saying he is a good officer.

He said Palparan "has a reputation of being an NPA fighter and a reputation of being the object of charges of human rights violation every time some militant members or NPA members are killed in the field where his units operate."

He said there are no military operations under Palaparan that were conducted in Tarlac recently, especially in Hacienda Luisita.

He said the situation at the Hacienda remains under control as no extra deployment of police or military personnel has been made.

Leftist party-list groups said the spate of killings is the military’s version in the countryside of the calibrated preemptive response policy of the Arroyo administration.

Bayan Muna held a national council meeting yesterday in Quezon City to find solutions to the unsolved and continuing murder of militants, especially in Central Luzon.

"Like the CPR in the cities, the AFP-instigated murders preempt organizing and mobilizing the work of activists who are publicly known as critics of the Arroyo administration," said Rep. Teddy Casiño.

Rep. Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna president, said the party has agreed to "exert all democratic efforts" to oust Arroyo whose government, he said, started the "brazen and brutal" killings.

"Mrs. Arroyo has neither condemned nor stopped the killings. Instead, she and her Cabinet have joined the chorus of anti-communist and anti-Left propaganda attacks that have preceded the killings," Ocampo said.

As Arroyo continues to cling to power "by hook or by crook," Ocampo said, "the hook will continue to bludgeon our members for the prime reason of advocating her ouster."

"The best hope for the defense of our civil liberties and democratic rights is Arroyo’s quick exit from Malacañang. The same is true for the whole people who are now being saddled by the CPR, EO 464 and a slow drift towards martial rule," he said.

Rep. Joel Virador said they would seek to block Palparan’s promotion at the Commission on Appointments. "Our task apart from working for Arroyo’s ouster is to derail Palparan’s obvious trek towards being the AFP big boss on the basis of his terror campaign against non-combatants, especially unharmed political activists."

"Palparan may not have been the one who pulled the trigger at our murdered members but it was his hate-filled, anti-communist propaganda and his view that activists are like scum of the earth and unworthy of life which motivated the killers in their dastardly act," he said.

Roman Polintan, Bayan-Central Luzon chairman, said the the killings started on September 13.

He said at least four persons have been killed in Tarlac, including Ramos, three each in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Bataan, and two in Bulacan.

He said most of the killings, which he said were politically motivated, involved Bayan, Bayan-affiliated organizations and party-list leaders and coordinators.

Polintan asked civilian authorities and political leaders such as the governors, mayors and barangay captains as well as Catholic bishops and leaders of all religious organizations to speak out on the killings.

"These lawless elements no longer have respect for civilian authorities. Our political leaders should come out… and make a stand on these political killings. They are the only ones that the people can turn to. Otherwise, who can we turn to for help," he said.

Polintan said Palparan should be removed so that witnesses would be encouraged to come out.

Gen. Generoso Senga, AFP chief, said the allegations against Palparan were unfair.

"It is being investigated by the police. Let us wait for the results of the investigation before we start condemning people and organizations," he said.

While saying the military will cooperate in the police investigation into the killing of Ramos, Senga expressed doubt Palparan would have been involved.

"I don’t think even General Palparan and the rest of the military organization would allow the use of illegal means. The military does not sanction any illegal activities, any illegal means of conducting operations," Senga said.

Asked if he would deploy more forces in Central Luzon in view of the spate of killings, Senga said it is up to Maj. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, chief of the military’s Northern Luzon Command. "He has that much leeway as commander," Senga said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said: "They are so unfair. So many people know they have disregarded the rule of law, and the rules of evidence. And they no longer follow processes. All they want is to destabilize the situation."

Esperon likened the accusations to kangaroo courts which the communist movement traditionally convenes to try alleged crimes against the people. "They already have a decision that the person is guilty," he said.

"We have courts all over the Philippines, so why don’t they file their cases in court and bring there their evidence. That is, in fact, one of the pillars of democracy, the justice system," he added.

Esperon said it would be unfair for any person or organization to be accused of something without due process. Esperon asked the critics what would be their reaction if he accuses them of killing their own comrades.

"Without presenting evidence, I will tell them that they were the ones who killed (Ramos). How would they accept that? So let’s go by the rules of law and the rules of evidence…You do not file cases in the streets. We don’t want anarchy here," he said.

PNP chief Arturo C. Lomibao ordered Central Luzon police director Chief Supt. Alejandro Lapinid to adopt tighter security measures to prevent more killings.

Lomibao assured the families of the slain labor leaders they will be impartial in the investigations.

"We will not allow or condone or lift a finger kung magkaroon man ng suspetsa either on the side of the military or the police or any other government official," Lomibao said.

As to the allegations that the military was involved in the killing of Ramos, Lomibao said he has made the proper coordination with their counterpart in the military.

"I have talked to General Senga and he also promised me na kung meron mang involved na sundalo as what the relatives (of Ramos) have claimed, then he will not lift a finger to intervene the results of the investigation," Lomibao said.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz decried what he said was the continued repression of farmers.

"Why must the poor be the continuous victims of exploitation? Why should the helpless be the constant targets of oppression? Why do farmers have to die for the land that is meant to be theirs? What is happening to our country? What is the government doing," Cruz said.

"Something must be fundamentally wrong with the justice system in this country. Those who have less in life are precisely the ones who also have less in law. Time and again, simple and defenseless people are killed. And these downright murders end up with but avowed ceremonial investigations. There are killings but no killers. Murders there are but murderers none," he added.

Cruz said that situation is getting harder for farmers who are made "to live by the sweat and toil" but are "still made to give up their own lives," by some people.

The situation could trigger a revolution by the poor, he said.

"The country is not only a topnotcher in the violation of human rights. It is also fast taking the lead in the extinction of human lives," Cruz said.

National security adviser Norberto Gonzales sought a congressional investigation into the upsurge of violent incidents conducted by the NPA in the countryside and their supposed involvement in street rallies through individuals identified with the communist movement and some leaders of some party-list groups.

Gonzalez, in a letter sent to Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., urged the House to request the justice department to "start investigations as to the extent of the role of these party-list alliances in fomenting rebellion and their participation in destabilization campaigns against the government."

He also asked the House leadership to request the budget department to temporarily hold all funding for party-list groups pending the outcome of the investigation.

Gonzales also sent a letter to Arroyo saying the daily protest actions and the rise in incidence of violent activities initiated by the CPP-NPA-NDF are part of a "destabilization strategy designed to obtain for the communist a significant share of the political power in an ouster scenario."

He said the intelligence community has strong reason to believe that the NPA is now the armed wing that props up the political wing and that the money extorted by the group from their victims are now being used to "financially support the daily rallies of militant groups linked with the CPP."

"It will be noted that since August, the number of NPA-initiated armed incidents has been on the rise again after a brief lull in June and July (at the height of the impeachment crisis) when the Party’s focus appeared to be on the united front," he said.

Gonzales also said that unless the new trend in the communist anti-government activities is checked, the "country might face a resurgent Communist insurgency threat. It is further feared that if the present trends will continue, the Communists would gain increasingly strong foothold in the mainstream of political system."

He said party-list groups identified with the communist organization have been at the forefront of the rallies and the number of party-list organizations identified with the left have been increasing.

He said he expects them to win more seats in Congress.

He added the Left-leaning partylist leaders have already infiltrated the ranks of mainstream opposition parties and moderate civil society groups since the current political crisis started.

"These groups have established linkages with new emerging civil society groups such as the Bukluran (Coalition for Truth), Black and White Movement, Solidarity Movement, and others," he said. – Jocelyn Montemayor, Wendell Vigilia, Jojo Due, Victor Reyes, Raymond Africa and Albert Ruelle Castro

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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