The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today strongly condemned the extrajudicial killings of Jiabong town councilor Claudio Gabiana and his wife Asuncion, barangay captain of Brgy. Jose Roño, Paranas, Western Samar last September 15, and blamed the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army for the crime. Their murders bring the number of local government officials summarily killed by suspected state forces in the region this year to eight.
According to Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, spokesperson for the NDF-EV, the killings were “carried out under the direction of the military against local officials suspected of supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), to terrorize other government officials as well as civilians into accepting their ‘counter-insurgency program.’”
Reports reaching the People’s Democratic Government reveal that three armed men shot Claudio dead as he was opening up shop in the couple’s home in San Jose Roño at around 7 a.m. They then entered the house and fatally shot Asuncion in her room. Before dying, she identified the assailants to witnesses as members of the paramilitary CAFGU. The killers ran straight to soldiers of the 87th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army who were at a nearby covered court, but who did nothing to stop them.
“The NDF-EV is outraged at this string of attacks by the 8th ID on local officials for no other reason except they were suspected supporters of the CPP-NPA,” said Fr. Salas, who stressed the Gabianas were civilians with no involvement in the armed struggle but were noted for supporting the human rights struggle of the peasants. Prior to the Gabiana couple, five barangay captains and a barangay councilor were killed in Northern Samar and Western Samar by suspected military elements. Other town and village officials have faced threats for resisting the atrocities of Duterte’s troops.
According to Salas, the killings are part of the implementation of the Duterte regime’s “whole-of-nation” approach as declared through Executive Order 70, by which the military takes over the civilian government and compels local officials into participating in their “counter-insurgency” operations. “Should they refuse, they are maliciously tagged as supporting the CPP-NPA and and face threats and even summary execution,” he said.
He also cited the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) recently established in each of the six provinces in the region, saying it will only further empower the Armed Forces of the Philippines to coerce civilian officials.
Fr. Salas urged the people of Eastern Visayas to express their indignation over this latest act of military brutality, to continue exposing the acts of terror committed by Duterte’s armed minions, and to intensify their call for justice for all their victims. He likewise urged local officials to be steadfast in their commitment to defend their constituents’ democratic rights and basic interests, and to join human rights defenders, church people, media persons, professionals and others in a broad unity against the fascist tyranny of Duterte.#