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More than 30 activists killed in Philippines

Rights groups condemn killings as new details surface

Gulf News

Manila: International and local rights groups on Thursday confirmed the rampant killings of more than 30 Filipino human rights activists.

One of them, Teodoro Escanilla, a spokesperson of Karapatan (a rights group), was killed in his house in Sorsogon, Bicol, southern Philippines on August 19, 2015.

For 10 years, Escanilla criticised the military’s rights abuses during his radio programme, Ernan Baldomero, vice chair of Hustisiya, told Gulf News.

Escanilla’s neighbour - his name was not released – testified in court that Alex Buenaobra, the alleged leader of the Philippine Army’s Peace and Development Team (PDT) which arrived in Sorsogon in October 2014, offered him P50,000 (Dh4,166.66) and a .45 calibre pistol to kill Escanilla.

He and his family hid in Manila when he refused the order.

He came back to Sorsogon on February 21, 2015, after the PDT had left, recalled Baldomero.

Another victim, Joel Gulmatico, 58, chair of Arakan Peasant Progressive Organization (APO) was shot dead on his motorcycle in Naje Village, Arakan, North Cotabato on August 18, 2015. He believed that the military unit in charge of development program in Naje was part of the military’s “Oplan Bayanihan,” accused of classifying members of people’s organization as leftists and anti-military, Baldomero said.

Unidentified gunmen shot Gregorio Ybanez, president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio TV Club, in front of his house in Tagum, Davao del Norte, in the south, on August 18, 2015. “Tell it to Ben,” his radio program, catered to poor people who sought justice from the government.

Members of a pro-government paramilitary group called Bagani allegedly killed Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio in Arakan, North Cotabato in October 2011. Several days later, soldiers killed Ramon Batoy, a farmer, during a raid in Arakan that was meant to arrest Tentorio’s killers. .

At the same time, the killing of ethnic Filipino-Muslim civilians or lumads intensified during Aquino’s time, said Congressman Carlos Zarate of Bayan, a leftist sectoral party at the House of Representatives.

About 262 victims of extrajudicial killings were recorded since Aquino was elected in 2010, said Zarate, adding, “The Aquino administration has a horrible legacy of killing human rights defenders and lumads.”

“These deaths are a grim reminder of the government’s sanction to the climate of impunity in the country,” said AlterMidya, it aims to tell rights stories that mainstream media refuse to touch.

Aquino always “turned a deaf ear to the loud cries of international rights organizations and the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights (UNCHR) that the government should look into the increasing human rights abuses in the Philippines,” Karapatan said.

About 156 human rights defenders, including 31 Filipinos, were killed worldwide in the first 11 months of 2015, said the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders, adding that more than half of the killings occurred in Latin America, including Colombia that recorded 54 murders.

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