Peasant leader shot dead in Davao City

Witnesses told investigators from the Talomo Police Station that two armed men approached Pojas around 6 a.m. and shot him while he was about to go back to the FADC office after buying cigarette. The police report was signed by Supt. Michael John Dubria, the station commander.

The FADC office is in Bugac, Maa, some five kilometers west of downtown Davao City. A companion in the office that time, who declined to be named, said that Pojas was still able to run back to the office from across the street but failed to reach the steel gate.

Pojas during the transport strike May 12. Photo courtesy of BAYAN Southern Mindanao

"He just bought cigarette and after he crossed the street, he was apparently approached from there and shot. He still shouted for help," said the KMP personnel.

The KMP personnel added that Pojas and another staff from the FADC office were scheduled to visit Compostela Valley province this morning following reports that the evacuees from a recent armed encounter in Monkayo were harassed.

The militant groups have figured in a word war with the Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade after the Army complained that the militant groups were behind a rally by residents from New Bataan and some towns to demand a halt to military operations.

"If there should be somebody who should be asked to leave the area, it should be the NPAs [New People's Army], not us. Because the Constitution mandates us to run after these rebels and to protect the people," Col. Allan Luga, 1001IB commander, earlier told reporters.

The Karapatan and the KMP have helped residents asked the provincial government to investigate and stop the alleged militarization in the province that have resulted to alleged abuses on civilians, including mauling of residents in New Bataan.

Pedro Arnado, vice chair of KMP-SM, said Pojas was widely quoted in the local media criticizing the alleged cases of human rights violations in Baganga and Cateel in Davao Oriental, in New Bataan and Compostela, all in Compostela Valley province, "and most recently he spoke for the family of the slain Datu Doming Diarog".

Last March, Pojas also said he was approached by two men wearing civilian clothes and asked why he made anti-government comments over radio station DXDC. The KMP said he had received death threats through his cellphone, and strangers were reported to have cased the KMP office in Maa since December last year.

Arnado said "there is no other motive behind the killing of Pojas but to silence the resisting voice of the truth and rights defenders in Davao and the rest of Southern Mindanao."

In a press statement, KMP chair Rafael "Ka Paeng" Mariano, who is also president of ANAKPAWIS party list, said "Ka Celso is the first victim of extra-judicial killing in Davao City and we ask Mayor Duterte to help in our call for justice for Ka Celso. He was killed in the middle of KMP-Southern Mindanao Region's campaign against the militarization of peasant and lumad communities in Compostela Valley province and for genuine agrarian reform".

"Ka Celso seems to be the opening salvo of the reign of terror of the new Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Yano. Ka Celso has also told KMP-SMR staff members that he was being followed and monitored by the military. He is the 904th victim of extra-judicial killing and the 105th KMP leader killed during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo' s term," Mariano said. (MindaNews)