Ex-gov says drive vs left in Negros Occidental being committed with impunity
BACOLOD CITY — There seems to be a campaign against people perceived to be left-leaning on Negros Island, according to a former governor.
“The killings have reached a point where it is being done with impunity,” said former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela.
The statement stemmed from the recent killing of Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas Sr. of Escalante City, a human rights defender, by a still unidentified gunman on Monday.
His killing came less than five months after human rights lawyer Ben Ramos was killed near a convenience store in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Photos of Ramos, Patigas and 61 others were plastered on a poster placed on the walls in Moises Padilla town, Negros Occidental and identified as either communist rebels or sympathizers.
Hours after the killing of Patigas, leaders of people’s organizations in Negros received death threats.
Cocolluela said he had some personal acquaintances who went into hiding after receiving these death threats.
“They are lying low. They are keeping quiet – in fact, one or two are in actual hiding because of perceived or actual threats. One actually says there was an aborted attempt to kill him,” Coscolluela said.
Coscoluela said he did not hear strong signals about a full-dress investigation into the killings, giving credence to speculation that “government forces were at work.”
“Whether they are government forces themselves or sanctioned by the government, we can’t really tell. That is why we are calling for a full dress investigation,” he said.
But Coscolluela admitted that the problem was who would conduct an investigation if the suspects were believed to have been given the go-signal by the state.
“I don’t know where this is going to end. This is one sad commentary about the state of affairs of our country if people are even afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation, people are afraid to express their real sentiments kay basi ma tokhang (because they are afraid to be killed). We are seeing the rapid deterioration of democracy and continuing violations of human rights,” he said.
Coscolluela said President Duterte should seriously get to the bottom of what is happening “assuming that he has nothing to do with it.”
“The proof to show that he has nothing to do with it is to get to the bottom of all these killings and bring to justice all the perpetrators. If there are no serious attempts to investigate and bring justice, one will have to conclude that government forces are behind this,” Coscolluela said. /lzb
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