Labor leader: Gov’t wants me dead

"They are out to kill me. I'm a dead man walking," Bantayan said in an
interview with MindaNews Thursday.

"No other institution has the capacity, the motivation, and the means for
political killings," he said, adding the frequent sighting of armed men
outside his residence this week showed he was not only being harassed and
placed under surveillance.

He claimed the military was behind the alleged slay attempt. "The government
and the military have dragged civilian militant groups like KMU into its all-
out war with the communist rebels," he said.

In the morning of September 12, Bantayan said a companion and neighbors saw
three "suspiciously looking" armed-men standing by their gate. Bantayan said
he saw two of them when he peeped through the gate. One of them was caught
off-guard as he was talking to somebody with his mobile phone, he added.

Bantayan locked the gate and rushed inside. But the men, armed with pistols,
stayed in the area until curious neighbors went out of their houses. He has
since left home and worked out of the office as a precaution.

He said neighbors spotted men checking their house in the four days prior to
Sept. 12. He said their househelp also reported the men came back in the
evening and checked on him.

Bantayan, son of a KMU leader slain in 1988, said he was tempted to believe
it was just harassment and standard surveillance. "But this time there are
more signs showing they ought to do more than that," he said.

He said they have become used to surveillance but he noted the rising number
of activists being killed under the Arroyo administration.

"I can't just let them kill me just like they killed my father. That would
be so tragic for my family," he said.

He cited some 750 cases of political killings since 2001. Forty-eight of the
victims were KMU members and supporters, including 33 last year. Already, he
said, 153 activists have been reported killed this year.

"It is clear that people whose only fault is to fight for social change are
being killed," he said.

Col. Eduardo del Rosario, commander of the Army's Task Force Davao, denied
they are into political killings. He described Bantayan's reaction as
mere 'paranoia' in a television news interview Thursday.

Bantayan countered paranoia "is not in organizations like KMU, it's in the
government". He scored the government for tagging them as "fronts of the
Communist Party".

"No organizational line will place us under the Communist Party of the
Philippines–New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA)," he said.

Bantayan said they have given del Rosario's word the benefit of a doubt. But
he stressed they are not sure of people who do not submit to local
authorities. He said they have confidence in Mayor Duterte's assurance
against political killings in Davao City.

"But there could be units and elements who might not submit to the mayor.
It's possible," he said.

Bantayan said the military has to fight fairly and spare the "legitimate
struggle" of armless activist groups who use non-violent means.

"If they are fighting an all-out war with the communist rebels, the
government has to spare the civilians," he said.

Bantayan, who managed to work discreetly since Sept.12, said he would have
to continue doing so for quite sometime. He admitted, however, that this
practice was draining his finances.

"Keep a healthy democracy, stay a little farther. We are not criminals.
Don't force us to look into other options (for redress)," he said.

If the government wants to solve insurgency, Bantayan said, then it should
not go witch hunting. "They should solve the root problems of poverty,
hunger, unemployment, lack of social services, among other things, "he said.

He asked the government and the CPP-NPA to show sincerity in the stalled
peace talks by returning to the negotiating table.

"As long as the all-out war is there, the civilians will always be dragged,"
he said.