Village chief of indigenous community in Capiz slain
ILOILO CITY –– Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot dead a village chief of an indigenous people’s community in Tapaz town in Capiz on Sunday, two months after nine tribal leaders were gunned down in a police operation.
Julie Catamin, village chief of Roosevelt, died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Catamin, 49, was driving a motorcycle on his way home around 8:45 a.m. when two assailants wearing helmets on board a black motorcycle repeatedly fired at him at Barangay Malitbog Centro, according to an initial report of the Calinog police station.
The police launched pursuit operations against the gunmen who fled towards the town proper.
Investigators are still determining the identity of the assailants and the motive for the attack. They recovered four .45-caliber empty shells at the crime scene.
Pamanggas, a farmers federation in Panay decried the attack on Catamin accusing state forces of being behind the attack.
“(Catamin’s killing) is meant to silence him and sow fear among residents to stop them from telling the truth on the killing of nine Tumandok (indigenous people’s group) leaders and the arrest of 16 others,” according to a statement in Filipino.
In a post on his Facebook page on Dec. 30, Catamin accused policemen, who arrested four residents of his village, of planting firearms and explosives.
“They were arrested and handcuffed. Bullets and firearms were planted and their houses were destroyed. Where is justice? I am appealing for help from any government agency that can help me,” Catamin said in his post.
The nine tribal leaders, including three village council members, died when operatives from Metro Manila and Calabarzon of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) served search warrants for firearms and explosives in two villages in Calinog and six villages in Tapaz.
Police and military officials alleged that the nine died after they fired at the policemen. They also accused those who died and were detained, as leaders or supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.
But relatives of those who died and were arrested and several village officials, including Catamin, have belied the police and military claims. They accused the police operatives of planting firearms and explosives and shooting those who died while they were begging for their lives.
Church leaders, including eight Catholic bishops in Western Visayas and Romblon Island, have called for impartial and transparent investigation.
The Jaro Archdiocese has assisted the families, including providing legal counsel.
Academics, researchers, artists, writers, and other cultural workers have called for an independent investigation and raised concern over the impact on the tribe.
The Regional Internal Service of the PNP and the Commission on Human Rights are conducting separate investigations on the incident.
Members of the tribe, also known as Panay Bukidnon or Sulodnon by scholars, are among those at the forefront in opposing an ongoing P11.2-billion mega-dam project in Calinog, which the tribe said would displace residents in at least 16 out of 17 indigenous communities.
The tribe, the biggest indigenous people’s group in Panay, is known for its rich oral tradition that provides insights into the history, psyche, and culture of the prehispanic Panay Bisayan, according to scholars.
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