It has been two weeks since the brutal murder of peasant activist Fernando Bejino in Siaton, Negros Oriental, but until now no action has been taken by authorities to zero in on the murderers. After almost two weeks, no assistance and relief has been extended to his bereaved family by any government agency.
Fernando Bejino, 45, was an active member of the Casalaan Farmers Association and an ardent oppositionist to the operation and planned expansion of the environmentally-destructive and economically-disruptive jathropa plantation in their locality. For this, he and his group earned the ire of members of the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) who guard the plantation and arm local thugs in harassing activists.
Bejino has been warned by 79th IB troops and their vigilantes to “surrender” and stop criticizing government programs, particularly the bio-fuel project in the Tamlang Valley, Negros Oriental.
On 27, June, 2010, 1PM, as P.Noy was busy sorting out his attire for his inauguration, Bejino was brutally murdered inside a passenger jeep. He was on his way home, with his wife and his mother, when a fellow passenger with a military physique, disembarked near a jathropa processing plant, pulled out a pistol, aimed this at the passengers and ordered that those who are not “involved” to leave. As if on cue, another passenger who was seating right across Bejino, pulled out his own pistol and shot Bejino pointblank.
Bejino died on the spot. He sustained five gunshot wounds from a .45-cal. pistol.
Two weeks before the incident, KARAPATAN member Benjamin Bayles, 49, was peppered with 15 gunshot wounds from same kind of pistol by two soldiers of the 61st IB in Himamaylan, Negros Occidental. The local police arrested the suspects and identified them as Roger M. Bahon and Ronnie L. Caurino, who both confessed to being “organic” members of the 61st IB. The following day, however, the police retracted its statement.
Indeed, these acts have not ended with the formal lifting of martial law. An undeclared military rule continues to hang over the country with the unabated killings and enforced disappearances of activists, human rights defenders and media practitioners.
As we condemn these acts, let’s do our share in working for justice. We could start by urging P.Noy to send direct assistance to the victims, and to suspend military commanders in whose areas of responsibility these atrocities were committed.