KORONADAL CITY, Philippines – A known leader of the Bayan Muna party-list group in Central Mindanao was gunned down on a busy street here on Monday afternoon, police said.
Eleazar Billanes, in his 40s, was shot in the head with a caliber .45 pistol by two motorcycle-riding men while buying a newspaper in a magazine store on Osmeña street past 4 p.m. Monday, said Senior Superintendent Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director.
A bystander, Francisco Piodok, was hit by a stray bullet in the leg.
Billanes was also the secretary-general of the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Timog Kutabato and one of the founders of the South Cotabato People’s Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (Socpand).
As of press time, police investigators could not yet give information on the possible motive on Billanes’ killing.
Witnesses said the militant’s attackers wore ski masks and helmets so it was difficult to identify them.
Militant organizations in South Cotabato condemned the killing and blamed it on the military.
In an interview with Bombo Radyo Koronadal, Peter Jabido, former spokesman of Bayan Muna in the Socsksargen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) area, tagged operatives of the Armed Forces and the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group based in the province as the ones allegedly behind the Billanes slay.
Jabido said Billanes, whom he considered as a “good friend,” was one of the militants who defended human rights victims and criticized corrupt local government officials.
“They want to silence him that’s why they killed him,” Jabido told The STAR in an interview at the lobby of Southern Funeral Homes here yesterday.
Jabido, who just arrived last week from the United States for a vacation, blamed President Arroyo for the “political killings” happening in the country.
Billanes’ Socpand group has been advocating for good governance and has been known here for its firm stand against the mining exploration at the boundary of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. – With John Unson – By Ramil Bajo (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)