(UPDATED – 8:40 p.m.) MANILA – Unidentified men shot three members of a fact-finding mission team looking into alleged human rights violations in Negros Oriental at around 2:40 pm Tuesday (Nov. 28), killing two of them and leaving one in critical condition, a report by the Karapatan alliance said.
Karapatan identified the victims of the ambush in Brgy. San Ramon in Bayawan, Negros Oriental, as Elisa Badayos of Karapatan Central Visayas, and Elioterio Moises, a barangay tanod and member of local peasant organization Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association. They were pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Bayawan.
The third victim, a 23-year-old Kabataan partylist member who has not been named, remains in critical condition.
The 30-member FFM team was in the area to investigate and verify reported human rights violations due to intensified military operations.
“The attack on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless. The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime. Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organizations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to outrightly kill those who dare to question,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Palabay added that “the space for human rights defenders is fast shrinking, as the Duterte regime is finding more and more ways to cripple defenders on the ground who voice out the real situation experienced by marginalized communities victimized by militarization.”
She cited Negros Oriental Provincial Ordinance no.5, s.2008, or known as “An Ordinance Regulating Outreach Activities Through Medical and Fact-Finding Missions in the Countryside of Negros Oriental and for Other Purposes,” which prohibits nongovernment organizations and other cause-based organizations from conducting any humanitarian mission in Negros Oriental without seeking permission from the governor, municipal government and municipal police. Violators are sanctioned with six months of imprisonment and participants in the mission are to be fined P5,000.
According to Karapatan, the 30-member FFM Team arrived in the mission area in San Ramon, Bayawan at 11am. They were blocked by armed men who demanded to know the purpose of the mission. They were eventually allowed to pass.
At around 2:30pm, Bayados, another member of the FFM team, and a member of a Cebu youth organization decided to go to the police station to file a blotter report regarding the harassment incident earlier. They were accompanied by Moises. While on their way to the police station, they were shot at by unnamed gunmen, suspected to be the same armed men who blocked their entrance to the mission site. The shooting led to the death of Moises and Badayos. The 23-year-old KPL member is set to be brought to a hospital in Dumaguete after sustaining gunshot wounds on her shoulder.
Elisa Badayos is the wife of former labor leader and desaparecidos Jimmy Badayos.
Meanwhile, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers issued an Emergency Statement in reaction to what it termed the “brutal attack”, noting that those endeavoring to monitor human rights violations “are themselves subjected to such serious infringement of their own rights.” A facsimile of the statement is reproduced below: