|Military asset tagged in killing of Bayan Muna leader in Bohol|
|Written by Karen Papellero|
|Monday, 25 June 2007 16:46|
Eyewitnesses told a fact-finding team of the human rights alliance Karapatan last July 17 that it was a certain Hilario “Larry” Diola who shot Mario Auxillo, 50, secretary general of Bayan Muna (People First) Party in Bohol. Auxillo was shot three times, last June 15, in front of a store in the public market of Brgy. Poblacion, Bien Unido town. Auxillo succumbed to his gunshot wound two days later.
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Diola, the suspect, is a resident of Bien Unido and a member of Alimaong Holy Warriors, a known anti-communist vigilante group under the tutelage of the 15th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army. Sources also revealed that Diola is an asset of the military and has previous criminal records.
According to residents of Bien Unido, Diola and Auxillo were close friends. Even Diola’s wife, Libeth, said in an interview that Auxillo stayed over in their house a couple of times just this May. She could also not think of any reason why her husband would kill Auxillo since she has not witnessed any altercations between them.
In an interview last July 18, SPO1 Francidieto Injog Garcia Sr., Bien Unido police investigator, said they are still gathering all the affidavits of the witnesses and will be processing Diola’s warrant of arrest.
The suspect’s wife claimed that she last saw her husband in the morning of June 16. She said that Hilario informed her that he will go somewhere and will be back soon. However, he has not come home since.
As of press time, a week after the incident, the suspect still remains at large.
Mayong, as Auxillo was called by friends and relatives, had three bullet wounds – one in his lower jaw, left arm and left thigh. The attending doctors in Gallares Memorial Hospital in Tagbilaran City where he was treated, proclaimed him to be stable the day after the shooting. He was scheduled for a CT scan and surgery later since a bullet was still lodged in his lower jaw. However, Mayong was also a diabetic and complications arose due to his condition. He fell into a coma in the morning of June 17 and a few minutes later was declared dead.
A military target?
Prior to the incident, Auxillo was busy working with farmers’ groups under the Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Humabol) in their campaign against the impending oil exploration activities in Bohol strait. Auxillo told his colleagues that he was being tailed and placed under surveillance by unidentified men. He also informed HUMABOL that he received numerous death threats.
Auxillo ran for board member last May 2007 elections, but lost. During the election campaign, there were “smear tactics” tagging him as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and at the same time an asset of the military. A known military-supported group, the Mata na Bol-anon Movement (MBM, Arise Boholano Movement), distributed materials maligning Auxillo along with party-list groups, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women’s Party.
In his hometown in Trinidad, Bohol, alleged “surrenderees” accompanied by soldiers conducted “pulong-pulongs” (mass meetings) among the residents. During these meetings, Auxillo was accused of being a communist-terrorist. Soldiers and vigilante groups campaigned against him. On June 4, Auxillo personally confronted a group of soldiers led by 1st Lt. Ronald Suscano conducting a meeting at San Vicente, Tridnidad, Bohol and refuted the allegations against him.
Immediately after the gathering, the farmers who attended the discussion witnessed four unidentified men in two motorcycles without license plates, following Auxillo out of the area. The farmers hurriedly caught up with Auxillo and escorted him. On June 5, he confided to colleagues that wherever he went, there were soldiers from the 15th IB under a certain 1st Lt. Melon from the army detachment at Sta. Fe, Danao, Bohol.
This was not the first time Auxillo had brushes with the military. Last 2003, he was abducted by elements of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) in Cebu. He was then the Bayan Muna Regional Coordinator in Central Visayas. He was released two days later.
In a statement, Bayan Muna said Auxillo is the latest victim in the growing list of political activists and leaders of progressive and militant organizations killed and persecuted under the anti-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bantay Laya II of the Arroyo administration.
He is the sixth leader of progressive groups killed in Bohol since 2004 and 864th in the entire country. Less than a year ago, Victor Olayvar, chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)– Bohol, was also killed.
“There is no other group who has the blood-thirsty desire of silencing and neutralizing our leaders and members, especially the ones who are effectively organizing and mobilizing the people against the anti-poor policies of the Arroyo administration but the very institutions who swore to serve and protect the people and yet, are the same ones killing democracy,” said Arman Perez, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna- Central Visayas.
However, Col. Jesse Dellosa, the commanding officer of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army released statements claiming that they should not be implicated in the murder of Auxillo since the killing is allegedly a result of personal grudges.
The Alimaong group also released a certification last June 17 to the Karapatan team stating that Diola has been suspended from the organization due to his alleged involvement in the crime.
The Philippine National Police in Bein Unido, led by a certain Romeo S. Teruel, also conducted their own investigation. In their report released last June 19, 2007, they were able to interview the father of the suspect, Pompeyo Diola, who told the police that while “Larry” was still living in their house in Anonang, Inabanga, Bohol, he was allegedly a “collector” of the New People’s Army (NPA) and that they used to accommodate NPA members in their house.
The elder Diola also confirmed that his son was imprisoned at 16 years old for arson. He also said that Larry joined the NPA after his release.
But the human rights group, Karapatan and local leaders of Bayan Muna in Bohol reiterated their findings that there are many facets in the crime that would prove that the motive is not due to personal vendetta.
“The cold-hearted nature of the murder, the circumstances surrounding the relationship of the victim and suspect, and prior incidents indicating threats to Mayong’s life coming from state security agents led us to believe that there is a political motive to the killing. Maybe Col. Dellosa is the suspect’s spokesperson. He was so quick to point out that Larry killed Mayong due to personal reasons, even before conducting an investigation,” said Dennis Abarientos, secretary general of Karapatan in Central Visayas.
Abarientos also pointed out that extra-judicial killings occurring in Bohol are suspiciously being categorized immediately by the military and the police as personal in nature. He said this is consistent with the usual line of the military every time they are being implicated in the increasing number of political killings.
“Every time there is a political activist who was killed, they (the military) either say that the NPA did it to one of their members or that it was the result of a personal altercation among friends or neighbors. This is the easiest way for them to wash their bloody hands off the case,” Abarientos declared.
John Ruiz III, provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna-Bohol challenged the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Bohol to conduct a man-hunt operation to capture the suspect.
“We know the extent and capability of the intelligence network of the military. If they really have no knowledge of the crime, they should use their resources in capturing Diola, even if he is one of their assets. We only hope that when they do, they will not shield him from the law as they did to suspects in previous killings of militant leaders in Bohol. At the end of the day, justice must be served.” Ruiz warned.
The body of the slain peasant leader would be buried on June 26, 2007 in his hometown in Trinidad, Bohol.
It was his last request that he be interned and buried in the land where he was one with the struggle of the farmers, where he was fondly known as “Mayong Mag-uuma” (Mayong the Farmer). Bulatlat