Task Force Usig reported that there were no recorded cases of killings of militant party-list members, militants or journalists in the first 38 days of 2009.
TF Usig chief Director Raul Bacalzo, in a two-page report, said the task force noted an 85 percent decline of incidents for two consecutive years – 2007 and 2008 – from as high as 41 cases in 2006.
“For 2008, there were six incidents recorded, two of them leftist activists and four were media practitioners,” stated Bacalzo’s report, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR. The same figure was recorded in 2007.
Task Force Usig was formed on May 13 to address unexplained killings of journalists and members of militant groups.
Bacalzo noted that the killing of radio commentator Badrudin Abas last Jan. 21 in Cotabato City was a case of mistaken identity.
Meanwhile, the two militant victims killed in 2008 were Celso Pojas, spokesman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and secretary general of Farmers Association of Davao City; and Vicente Paglinawan, AKBAYAN member and organizer of Pambansang Kilusang ng Samahang Magsasaka.
Bacalzo said Pojas was murdered last May 15, 2008 in Bugac, Barangay Maa, Davao City while Paglinawan was killed last Nov. 22 in Malabog, Paquibato District, Davao City.
“There were four work-related media killings in 2008 that fall under attack on press freedom,” said Bacalzo, who noted that cases for murder were filed against the suspects before the respective Prosecutor’s Office and courts.
These are Martin Roxas, a broadcaster of the Radio Mindanao network (RMN) in Roxas City, killed last Aug. 7; Dennis Cuesta, anchorman of the RMN RXMD in General Santos City last Aug. 4; Fausto Bert Sison, a blocktimer of radio station dzAT in Quezon province last June 30 and Ariceo Padrigao, a block-timer commentator of the local radio dxRS Radyo Natin, in Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental last Nov. 17.
TF Usig scored major achievements in 2008 with the conviction of the killers of Bayan Muna member Jose Doton, who was murdered in 2006. The killers were sentenced to reclusion perpetua by Pangasinan Judge Ulysses Butuyan.
Another accomplishment was the arrest of Pfc. Roderick de la Cruz, accused of killing labor union leader Ricardo Ramos last Oct. 25, 2005 in Tarlac City.
The task force continues to pursue the investigation on the murder of Midland Review columnist Marlene Esperat in 2005 and managed to revive the charges against the alleged masterminds, Osmeña Montaner and Estrella Sabay.
Esperat gunmen Estanislao Bismanos, Jerry Cabayag and Randy Grecia were convicted for the murder in 2006.
“In summary the TF Usig handled a total of 146 cases since year 2001 up to present,” said Bacalzo, who said of the 146 incidents, 115 were members of militant groups and 31 were media practitioners.
He noted that 90 cases or about 62 percent of the incidents were filed in court, two cases were under investigation, 53 incidents or 36 percent are considered “cold cases” and one case was dropped and closed.
For 2008, Bacalzo said a total of eight cases were referred before the Prosecutor’s Office, six incidents were filed in court, three cases were re-filed, three suspects were arrested, two other suspects surrendered, one suspect was killed and one was convicted in court.
TF Usig credited the initiatives of the Supreme Court through the creation of Special Courts to try unexplained killings and enforced disappearances, the promulgation on the writs of amparo and habeas data that helped reduce the incidents of unexplained killings.
Likewise, TF Usig recognized the roles of Task Force 211, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, the cooperation of the victims’ families, assistance of key witnesses and human rights group Karapatan in helping solve the cases.– Cecille Suerte Felipe, Philippine Star