[Urgent Appeal] Killing of a Human Rights Defender -TFDP

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URGENT APPEAL
May 21, 2015

(PHILIPPINES) Killing of a Human Rights Defender

Dear friends,

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the killing of a former priest who is a human rights defender.

If you wish to make any inquiries please contact the Research, Documentation and Information Program of TFDP, kindly send email to tfdp.1974@gmail.com or call +632 4378054.

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________________

Title: Labastilla EJK
Case: Extra-Judicial Killing
Victim: Teresito Mula Labastilla, 46 years old
Date of Incident: February 12, 2015
Place of Incident: Dionisio Micayabas Street, North Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon
Perpetrators: Unidentified motorcycle-riding men
Motive: Land-related; connected to victim’s advocacy in helping the CARP beneficiaries
______________
Account of the incident:

A former priest and human rights defender of indigenous people and farmers was killed by unknown assailants on a motorcycle at Dionisio Micayabas Street, North Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon last February 12, 2015, around 7:45 in the morning.

Teresito Mula Labastilla, also known as Fr. Sito, 46 years old, dropped his son at Maramag Central School on the morning of the day of the incident. While Labastilla was about to leave the school premise, he was peppered with bullets by the two motorcycle-riding men. His son Tristan Matthew, who just got down from the vehicle, heard a series of gun shots and heard his father calling him. He saw their Isuzu Samurai vehicle accelerate toward the concrete wall, skidded and overturned with his father still inside.

Shocked onlookers ran towards the overturned vehicle and helped Labastilla get out. The men aboard the motorcycle sped off. The victim was bloodied and unconscious. The onlookers helped lay him down on the concrete road while they waited for a vehicle to bring Labastilla to the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag. He was declared dead on arrival. He sustained three gunshot wounds in his neck, face and chest. The attending physician said that all the bullets went through his body. The police investigated the crime scene and recovered four empty cartridges of a .45 caliber gun.

Arline Amigo, Labastilla’s live-in partner, learned about what happened when someone went to their house in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag to fetch her and accompany her to the hospital. But at that time, she thought that Labastilla was only injured. When she arrived at the hospital, she was directed to the morgue. Amigo was distressed and disoriented. She and Labastilla were soon to be married.

Witnesses recounted to her that the two assailants rode a white or blue XRM motorcycle that had no plate number. Both men were wearing masks. The victim was about to leave the area after he brought his son to school when the back rider of the motorcycle shot the back tire of Labastilla’s vehicle. The victim was then shot three times. Tristan Matthew was almost hit by the motorcycle. He told his mother that he already noticed the motorcycle-riding men since December 2014. The suspects usually stood by the front of his school and he saw them every time his father dropped him off at school.

Labastilla was a well-known environmental activist in the province. He was a priest for 14 years and was assigned in Malaybalay City, Lantapan, and San Fernando, Bukidnon diocese. He left the priesthood in 2000 and had his own family.

He ran for mayor in Lantapan, Bukidnon in 2010, but lost. The current mayor filed a case of Oral Defamation against Labastilla. A day before he was killed, he was convicted and had the penalty of imprisonment for ten days and was ordered to pay ten thousand pesos (P10,000). During his campaign, Labastilla said that he desired for honest and sincere services to be given to the people of the municipality. His main advocacy was for the issues of land and water to be resolved for the farmers and indigenous people in his area.

He is also the spiritual adviser and consultant of the local organization called Bukidnon Agrarian Reform and Agri-Business Multipurpose Association (BARAMA). The organization was established last February 3, 2008. It promotes organic farming among the IPs and farmers in the province.

Agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag were having difficulties in occupying the awarded 34 hectares of land after a former owner sent private armies to the area and harassed them. The beneficiaries solicited advice from Labastilla and he accommodated them. He used his vehicle and drove for the farmers when they needed to make follow ups regarding their case. Amigo and the other people close to Labastilla think that this might be the reason why he was killed.
Maramag Police Chief Jose Sevillero recently visited Amigo and showed her a cartographic sketch of one of the suspects. She said that she hopes that the case will be resolved soon and that justice will be served.

Amigo now fears for her life and her children’s. They have noticed motorcycle-riding men going around their residence.

UPDATE:

Maramag Police Chief Jose Sevillero was replaced by Police Inspector Donnald Cordero. SPO4 Fernando Razalo, the investigator of the case, together with Police Inspector Cordero said that the cartographic sketch was made by the previous chief of police with the help of an unknown witness.

The new chief of police also stated that they are waiting of Police Inspector Sevillero’s cooperation for them to resolve the case.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following authorities, calling on them to resolve the case of killing of Teresito Labastilla, a former priest and human rights defender in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag Bukidnon.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ____________,

I am writing to draw your attention regarding the case of Teresito Mula Labastilla, 46 years old, a former priest and a human rights defender in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag Bukidnon.

I have learned that while he was inside his vehicle and was about to leave the school premise after dropping off his son last February 12, 2015 around 7:45 a.m. in Dionisio Micayabas Street, North Poblacion, Maramag, two unknown masked men aboard a motorcycle peppered him with bullets that later killed him.
The victim was known for his advocacy for the environment and good governance. He also helped the indigenous people and farmers in the province by promoting organic way of farming.
Agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag sought his advice regarding their land struggle. The victim willingly helped them to find a lawyer and even accompanied them to the area. It is believed that the victim was killed due to his support to these farmer beneficiaries.
I have also known that Maramag Police Inspector Jose Sevillero showed a cartographic sketch of the suspect to Labastilla’s wife last February 27. The Police Inspector said the sketch was made possible with the help of an eye witness who refused to surface in public for fear.
It was brought to my attention that after a series of case follow ups, the current Maramag Chief of Police, Police Inspector Donnald Cordero and Case Investigator SPO4 Fernando Razalo stated that they did not know the eye witness whom the former chief referred to.
The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (Republic Act No. 6713) mandates that all government employees, including police officers, have a duty to “always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest” and to “perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill, with utmost devotion and dedication to duty.” The unprofessional performance of the police in the form of severe lack of cooperation between the officers in investigating the killing of Teresito Mula Labastilla, is therefore not only violating the victim’s rights but also against the law.
Therefore, I humbly urge you to initiate a probe into the said case. Please guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the witness and the proper performance of duties by the police officers, so that the fundamental rights of the victims are fulfilled at all times.

I look forward to you urgent action.

Respectfully yours,

_________________________

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

Please send your letters to:

Hon. Benigno C. Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel St. San Miguel, Manila
Philippines 1005
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Email: op@president.gov.ph

Police Director General Leonardo A. Espina
OIC Chief, Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax: +632 724 8763 / +632 723 0401
Tel: + 632 726 4361 / +632 4366 8763
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II, EDSA corner Mapagmahal St.,
Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines, 1100
Fax: +63 925 0332
Tel: +63 925 0030, +63 925 0331
Email: mar@marroxas.com

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