Human Rights Defender Murdered By Army Soldiers
The Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN-Negros) and the September 21 Movement-Southern Negros express outrage on the brutal murder of human rights advocate and church worker Benjamin "Benjie" Bayles. His death is tragic news not only for the family he left behind but for thousands of poor upland farmers and farm workers and the people of Himamaylan he dedicatedly served.
The murder is not only a statement that political killings and persecutions of political activists, leaders and members of progressive organizations have not stopped, but also now clearly presents before our eyes who are the perpetrators of these dastardly acts. It leaves no doubt in our minds that the Philippine Army and security forces planned and executed these plans to annihilate political activists they unjustly and wrongly accused as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA.
All attending circumstances in political killings perpetrated against political activists are present. The victim was subjected to surveillance since last month. A team of 11th IBPA encamped in the Barangay Center weeks before the May 10 elections was looking for him and asking his whereabouts. The team of soldiers was also maligning Benjie, accusing him of working for the front organizations of the CPP-NPA. The threats and harassments have intensified for the past weeks, not only against Benjie, but also against other progressive leaders in Himamaylan.
As the end of the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 implementation, which is a dismal failure, is nearing, the dead body of the murdered activist serves as the medal of the fascist generals of the 3rd Infantry Division and to continually deceive the Filipino people that they are winning the brutal total war campaign. They have the motive and is now mobilizing resources to implement the brutal murders and afterwards to ensure that the perpetrators would go scot free and continue their rampage against the innocent people and political activists.
Benjie Bayles was murdered because of his work as a human rights advocate. He denounced abuses committed by the officers and men of Philippine Army against the upland farmers and farm workers. He facilitated the families of the victims to meet with the para-legals of September 21 Movement and KARAPATAN. He actively joined fact-finding missions and quick reaction teams sent to investigate human rights violations in the hinterland barangays of Himamaylan City.
His advocacy for human rights and people’s concerns was developed and nurtured by his involvement in church activities in the parish of San Ramon Nonato of Iglesia Filipina Independiente at Barangay Suay. From being a sacristan, he rose to become a lay worker and a lay leader, and a district coordinator of the Aglipayan Forum. As a lay leader, he was active in anti-mining campaigns and in peasant advocacies.
We condemn the brutal murder. We condemn the perpetrators and those who are behind the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 and its wicked plans. We will do all means to put the perpetrators to jail to attain justice for Benjie and hundreds of victims of the state-sponsored killings and murders. We started to work for the filing of charges in court. We have informed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Regional Office that we are submitting necessary documents. We will never stop our advocacies until justice is served. ###
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