DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 March) — Militant groups demanded Tuesday a full investigation on the killing of a village leader in Baganga town, Davao Oriental Monday, five days after joining a three-day barricade at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office here.
Barangay Binondo Kagawad Cristina Morales Jose was a member of Bayan Muna and Barug Katawhan, a group of typhoon Pablo victims from Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley Barug that staged the barricade to protest the way government had been handling relief efforts.
“Now, even as we mourn the senseless death of our colleague, Bayan Muna Mindanao demands a full investigation by the authorities on the cold-blooded murder of Kagawad Jose,” Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan Muna vice president for Mindanao and its second nominee, said.
He alleged that Jose’s death was meant “to silence her” and “send a chilling message against the surging movement of the Pablo survivors in the struggle for their democratic rights and the fight against all other forms of human rights violations.”
He said in a statement that Jose’s resolve and courage “to unite with all the Pablo victims to demand from the government what are due them and expose the anomalies in the agency that is supposed to look after the people’s welfare had apparently unleashed the devil that lurks in the sidelines.”
“It was dastardly yet a vain attempt, though, to undermine the people’s unity and militancy,” he added.
Mary Ann Sapar, secretary general of Gabriela Southern Mindanao, said in an interview they condemned in the strongest terms Jose’s killing
She noted it was ironic that the killing occurred four days before the commemoration of the 102nd International Working Women’s Day.
Sapar added that DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman was also to blame for her “insults, red-tagging, and intrigue against the [typhoon] survivors” which served as a “death sentence” against Jose and the other victims.
“We strengthen our call for her ouster. Aside from her ineptness, there is blood in her hands now,” Sapar said.
Jose Espejo, social marketing service officer at the DSWD central office told MindaNews in a text message Tuesday that Assistant Secretary Camilo Gudmalin has yet to comment on the incident.
Juland Suazo, spokesperson of Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, said in an interview during a protest rally here Tuesday that Jose exposed the alleged irregularities in the relief operations in Binondo, the food blockade and “militarization” of relief assistance, and the use of relief goods for political ends.
He added that before her death Jose, along with other Pablo victims who joined the barricade in Montevista, Compostela Valley last Jan. 15, was accused as a communist by the military.
Suazo said the military should also investigate through its human rights office, adding it should stop the practice of red-tagging as directed by former AFP chief of staff General Jessie Dellosa.
In a phone interview, 1Lt Raahbel O. Ymas, civil military operations officer of the 67th Infantry Battalion, denied the allegations against the military.
He denied that there was food blockade in Binondo and that the military practiced red-tagging against the villagers, including Jose, whom he said was their friend.
Citing a spot police report in a text message to MindaNews, Ymas said Jose was shot dead along Baganga Bridge in Barangay Poblacion at about 5:30 pm of March 4.
Baganga police said Jose was riding with her daughter Diana on a Honda XRM motorcycle driven by Marivic Enriquez towards Barangay Saoquegue “followed by the three unidentified perpetrators riding on undetermined type of motorcycle.”
“And upon crossing Baganga Bridge, the perpetrators shot the victim with unknown type of firearm. The victim was rushed at the Bagangay lying in clinic but was pronounced dead upon arrival by attending physician,” the report, as quoted by Ymas, said.
It said Jose “sustained one bullet wound with entrance at the back portion and exit on the portion of her breast.”
It added: “Investigators found no spent shell at the crime scene, and still looking for the motive of the killing.”
Ymas said Diana and Enriquez were not injured.
Meantime, members of Karapatan Southern Mindanao and Barug arrived in Binondo around 2pm Tuesday for a fact-finding mission.
Barug spokesperson Karlos Trangia said Jose had come from a barangay council session a few minutes before she was shot.
Karapatan said Jose was set to file cases of human rights violations with the Commission on Human Rights in Davao City, and expose through the media the alleged corruption and militarization of food assistance in her village. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)