Around 150 peasant activists staged a caravan of several jeeps from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon to the Camp Aguinaldo this morning to press Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David to categorically state the junking of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, which they said were responsible for the spate of political killings of leftwing activists all over the country.

The protesters led by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) held a 30-minute rally at the gate of Camp Aguinaldo along EDSA before joining the larger contingent of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Mendiola which spearheaded a multi-sectoral rally against Oplan Bantay Laya.

In a joint press statement KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin said President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, Secretary Gazmin and AFP chief Gen. David should move heaven and earth to stop the military death squads from killing more political activists, asserting Aquino as commander-in-chief is duty bound to end this across-the-country slaughter of leftwing activists all over the archipelago.

The peasant leaders said aside from junking the counter-insurgency program, President Aquino and his defense officials should also go after the brains and operators of Oplan Bantay Laya particularly former defense secretary Norberto Gonzalez and ex-Army general Jovito Palparan, charge the two before any appropriate court for crimes against humanity and prepare their prosecution at the soonest time possible and have Gonzalez and Palparan jailed before the bars of justice within the first 100 days in office of President Aquino.

Both leaders did not discount the possibility that death squads in the military loyal to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ex-defense secretary Gonzalez could be behind the killings of left-wing activists, however, the heavy responsibility still lies on the Aquino administration, adding that the 50-year old president is legally bound and politically obliged to dismantle these military death squads and stop the AFP from absorbing military death squads allied with Arroyo or from forming new death squads against critics and political activists highly vocal against the new administration.

“Whether these death squads are allied with Arroyo or not, the prime responsibility of Aquino is to have these death squads perish in the fires of hell and bring the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings to the bar of justice,” the KMP and Pamalakaya said.

Last week Ramos of KMP and Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano led an investigating team composed of peasant leaders, para legal workers and human rights advocates to determine other facts pertaining to the cold blooded murder of peasant leader Pascual Guevarra, head of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa sa 3,100 Ektarya ng Fort Magsaysay (Almana 3100) who was gunned down by a lone gunman inside the victim’s house on Saturday.

According to Ramos the result of the fact finding mission will be presented to the Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima anytime this week. In a text message sent to KMP headquarters in Quezon City, the KMP leader said the family of slain farmer leader wants to hold a dialogue with Secretary de Lima regarding the case.

“In behalf of the grieving family and relatives of Ka Pascual and his multitude of supporters in and out of the disputed 3,100 hectares inside Fort Magsaysay military reservation, we ask President Aquino to resolve this case with dispatch and high sense of justice. Mr. Aquino as commander-n-chief of the reactionary AFP is legally, constitutionally and politically equipped with powers under his disposal enough to render justice to Guevarra and send the perpetrators of this politically motivated crime behind the bars of justice,” the KMP official said.

Pascual grandson , Ronnel Villoria, 18, tried to help his grandfather but the gunman shot  and wounded him, said Senior Inspector Almario Evaristo, Laur’s police chief. The 78-year old activist farmer is the second member of the militant group killed in the first 10 days of the Aquino administration, following the brutal murder of Fernando Baldomero, a leader of Bayan Muna in Aklan.

“To prove to the outraged public that he is really against political killings, Aquino should immediately put under preventive suspension or drop from the service military and police generals in command where extrajudicial killings take place under the dictum of command responsibility. That’s one way of discouraging the generals and members of death squads from perpetrating more crimes against political activists,” said Ramos.

KMP and kasama-TK also proposed a full blown investigation of implementors of the counter-insurgency programs Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and Oplan Bantay Laya II which were largely blamed on the killings and abductions of activists under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

The groups said the investigation should cover all military and police generals who served the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2010 including former Defense Secretary Gonzalez and Gen. Palparan who were implicated in extrajudicial killings and abductions of political activists. #

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