Two barangay officials in Albay were killed last Monday after exposing abuses committed by AFP troops in their village. Barangay Captain Luzviminda Dayandante and Treasurer Albert Orbina of Barangay Batbat, Guinobatan, Albay were on their way home when they were ambushed in Barangay Sinungtan by elements of the 49th Infantry Battalion.
Just before they were killed, Dayandante and Orbina came from a consultation with Guinobatan town officials regarding the latest string of abuses and occupation by the 49th IB in 35 barrios in four neighboring towns in Albay. Both Barangay Batbat and adjacent village Sinungtan are under the control of the 49th IB.
Soldiers have openly red-tagged and threatened to kill Dayandante. They also vowed not to leave her barangay unless she is replaced.
The 49th IB, currently headed by Lt. Col. Benjamin Tapnio, recently returned from a four-year deployment in Western Mindanao. Upon arrival in August, it occupied villages in the towns of Ligao, Guinobatan, Pioduran and Jovellar in Albay province. In just a month or so, 49th IB troops have committed a string of abuses including blasting a residence, attempted murder, indiscriminate firing and forced surrenders. Residents have also complained against the 49th IB for causing Covid-19 infections in the otherwise pandemic-free villages of Guinobatan.
A day before Dayandante was killed, she confronted the military for intervening in the sessions of the barangay council.
The 49th IB is notorious for its crimes and abuses. This is not the first time that it murdered an official for exposing its offenses. In 2012, the 49th IB killed Barangay Captain Merlyn Bermas and a 4-year old boy of Barangay Malaya, Labo when the unit was stationed in Camarines Norte. Prior to her murder, Bermas and her family received death threats from the military for exposing the 49th IB’s massacre of a farmer and his 7 and 10-year old sons.