The national state of impunity continues hitting new lows with a report from human rights alliance Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) revealing that five individuals from Baras, Rizal and suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members were never insurgents after all.
It was at 2 AM, December 17, when mango farm workers including a minor were all massacred in a shootout in Brgy. San Juan, Baras, Rizal by elements of the 2nd Infantry Division and Philippine National Police (PNP) of Region IV-A. The alliance explained that, in contrast to what was said by authorities on social media, neighbors identified them as only caretakers, crop sprayers, and guards of a mango farm on the said barangay for about three years now.
Three of the slain, namely Carlito Zonio, Vilma Salabao, and Wesley Obmerga, were found in Antipolo Memorial Homes, while the other two, Jonathan and Niño Alberga, were reportedly returned to their families earlier.
The alliance ended their report by pleading to the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and other human rights organizations to investigate the matter so as to relieve the families of anxiety in waiting to retrieve their bodies.
“We are hopeful that enemies of human rights who made the brutal crime possible will be put into jail and that families of the victims can finally bring home their loved ones to give them proper and decent burial as soon as possible,” they said.
Red-tags and red-tapes for a redder holiday
Upon catching wind of the situation, Karapatan-TK sent a Fact-Finding Mission and Quick Response Team (FFM-QRT) to investigate and aid the grieving families. Much like their Typhoon Ulysses relief operation in Quezon and other fact-finding attempts or investigations on alleged NPA skirmishes, they were reportedly met with hostility from authorities, as well as having to endure continuous lines of red-tape.
The bodies of Zonio, Salabao, and Obmerga were yet to be claimed as the AFP and PNP were said to have required papers that proved the families as being related to the victims.
“Ayon sa may-ari ng Funeraria, kailangan pang maghanda ng pamilya ng mga dokumento na nagpapatunay ng relasyon sa kapatid at saka pa lamang sila bibigyan ng CLEARANCE TO RELEASE THE BODY ng Baras Municipal Police Station. Isang panggigipit na karaniwang ginagawa ng mga kapulisan sa atas ng mga sundalo at nakatataas sa kanila,” Karapatan-TK said.
They added that the families and the alliance’s paralegal team were instructed to visit the Antipolo Police Station first so they will be ‘coordinated’ before going to Baras Municipal Police Station.
Upon arriving at the Antipolo Police Station, however, the police allegedly harassed a Karapatan-TK member for documenting the scene in the event that there would be abuse and harassment done to the family and the FFM-QRT. Said member was then brought to the second floor of the station to delete the pictures and tried to get his identification card. The officer later threatened to sue the member.
“Wala ring masama sa pagkuha ng litrato ng isang Humanitarian dahil ito [ay] para sa dokumentasyon, maging ang pananakot ng pulis sa Humanitarian na kakasuhan umano ito. Malinaw ang intensyon ng Antipolo Police na ma-hold at binbinin ang oras ng mga pamilya at paralegals upang tumagal ang clearance ng mga labi at padaanin sa panggigipit ang pamilya sa kabila ng mga dokumentong nagpapakita ng katibayan ng relasyon nito sa mga labi,” Karapatan-TK said, defending their member for documenting.
PNP and AFP also harassed the FFM-QRT when they were waiting for the family of the victims at Antipolo Memorial Homes.
SWAT officers and other armed state agents also tried to get their IDs as a part of the ‘investigation’ in the morgue and ordered them to get off their vehicle for ‘inspection’. The team, however, refused to do so.
“BAKIT KAYA SAPILITANG PINABABA NG KAPULISAN ANG HUMANITARIAN TEAM SA SASAKYAN NITO? PARA DAW I-CHECK AT INSPEKYUNIN? SA ANONG DAHILAN? PARA TANIMAN NG EBIDENSYA AT IDAWIT SA GAWA-GAWANG KASO?” Karapatan-TK stressed, explaining that while they were on their way to Antipolo Memorial Homes, they were asked to pull over and exit their vehicle.
The Baras Five case was compounded by several slayings that have been reported in various parts of the Philippines.
On December 15, a red-tagged doctor and her husband were gunned down by men riding in tandem near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Brgy. Poblacion, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
Human-rights group Karapatan Negros Island believed that the incident was part of the liquidation operation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), known for red-tagging people.
Around the same time, Aninaw Productions reported that 50-year-old resident Saelar “Israel” Aslong was shot and killed by a riding-in-tandem in Brgy. Calamba, Guihulngan City
The day after, Atty. Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole was also shot dead in her vehicle in Camaligbato, Brgy. Looc, Danao City. She was known for assisting in a legal case last 2013 against Carmen Town police when a cop was said to have arrested a minor and refused to set them free.
Most recently and infamously, both an unarmed 52-year-old Sonya Anthony Rufino and her son, Frank Anthony Gregorio Rufino were shot dead by Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca in Paniqui, Tarlac. With their murders caught on video and was leaked online, this case had since reignited discussions on police impunity. [P]
Photo from Karaptan-TK / Facebook