Allan ‘Mano Boy’ Aguilando, 42, was gunned down on the morning of May 26 in Barangay New Rizal, Catarman, Northern Samar, just a week after surviving Typhoon Ambo, another ‘Yolanda-like’ typhoon in the region that is still reeling from the typhoon’s aftermath.
He was a peasant leader and the Chairperson of Northern Samar Small Farmers Association.
“We strongly condemn the brutal killing of Allan ‘Mano Boy’ Aguilando by elements of the 43rd Infantry Battalion in an alleged encounter,” said farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in a statement on May 27.
According to KMP, Aguilando, more known as Mano Boy in peasant communities, has led campaigns to advance the interests of farmers, especially the clamor for agricultural aid in Northern Samar where farmers have become severely vulnerable to the effects of both natural disasters and militarization. In 2017, Mano Boy joined and led the Stand With Samar caravan that mobilized farmers from Samar island to the National Capital Region to demand immediate aid from the national government. Mano Boy have been subjected to nonstop harassment and intimidation, and grave threats from the military ever since.
The farmers’ group said peasant killings and human rights violations escalated in Samar provinces since the implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 in November 22, 2018. MO 32 or the declaration of state of national emergency on account of lawless violence on the areas of Samar, Negros island and Bicol Region another form of martial law declaration after Martial Law in Mindanao was lifted after two years at the end of December 2018, according to human rights groups.
The memo order pushed the likes of Oplan Sauron, the counterinsurgency plan in Negros Island, with then-Central Visayas police chief and now NCR Police Office Chief Major General Debold Sinas at the helm seeing a spate of peasant killings, activists arrests and office raids.
Aguilando is the 251st farmer-victim of extrajudicial killing (EJK) under the Duterte administration in KMP’s record.
EJK victims group Hustisya said the killing of Aguilando is the result of Duterte’s P 2-million bounty offer.
“Walang dudang ang pagpatay kay Mano Boy ay resulta na ng pag-aalok ni Pangulong Duterte ng 2 milyong pisong pabuya sa sinumang makakapatay sa mga lider ng armadong kilusang New People’s Army (NPA). Malinaw na nagkukumahog na ang mga elemento ng militar sa paghahanap ng mapapatay upang makuha ang pabuya ni Duterte. Hindi baleng ordinaryong mamamayan o lider ng mga legal na organisasyong nagsusulong ng kagalingan ng mamamayan ang kanilang mapatay, makakuha lamang ng pabuya,” said Hustisya in a statement on May 27.
[There is no doubt that the killing of Mano Boy is the result of President Duterte’s offer of 2 million pesos reward for anyone who can kill a leader of the armed NPA. It is clear that military elements are in a hurry to find someone to kill to get Duterte’s reward. It does not matter to them if they kill ordinary citizens or leaders of legitimate organizations that push for the welfare of the people just so they get the reward money.]
Hustisya condemned Duterte’s bounty offer that was announced in the weekly president’s address to the people to announce updates and plans of the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response. They decried how, in the same speech, Duterte said we are running out of money for aid but offered bounty for NPA leaders.
The group said that before Aguilando was killed, he experienced ‘extreme harassment, red-tagging and intimidation by the military from the notorious elements of the 803rd Brigade – Peacemaker of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.’
Based on reports from KATUNGOD-Sinirangan Bisayas (KARAPATAN Eastern Visayas), the Armed Forces of the Philippines tagged Aguilando as a leader of the NPA in a futile attempt to justify his brutal killing—which the KMP branded as “an old yet enraging tactic of state mercenaries.”
“It is truly alarming how the ordinary Filipino people barely survive every day due to COVID 19, only to be subjected to a bloodshed orchestrated by the state forces themselves,” said the local rights group chapter in its statement.
Earlier, 803rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer Captain Ronald Aljas said that troops went to New Rizal village to check allegations that at least five armed men were in Catarman. Upon verification, he said the reported five armed men turned out to be Aguilando’s group. Aljas said that a 10-minute firefight ensued between the rebels and the government troops and that Aguilando was killed in the clash while his companions managed to escape. Soldiers recovered a .45-caliber gun from Aguilando, whose body was brought to a funeral home in Catarman.
“We condemn this latest heinous act against farmers. We call on all citizens to collectively condemn the government’s outright disregard of human rights, and the prevailing fascism at this time of pandemic,” according to KMP leader Danilo Ramos.
Typhoon Ambo (international name: Vongfong) made its first landfall in Eastern Samar on May 14 and also in Northern Samar on the same day. Farmers from Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, and Eastern Visayas were hard hit by Typhoon Ambo, the first tropical cyclone of the year, that left the Philippine Area of Responsibility on May 18. The Department of Agriculture (DA) said in a statement on May 26 that the typhoon wrought P1.37 billion worth of damage to agriculture, covering 27,472 hectares.
Three other peasants killed during pandemic
Ramos also cited several peasant extra judicial killings that happened during the COVID-19 lockdown.
On March 17, young peasant advocate and artist Marlon Madlos was killed in broad daylight in Tagbilaran City, Bohol after he was subjected to constant red-tagging, vilification, and harassment by elements of the 47th Infantry Batallion.
On March 31, peasant woman leader Nora Apique of the Kapunungan sa Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur was shot to death by armed men.
On April 18, peasant leader John Farochilin, a council member of PAMANGGAS-KMP and local leader of Alyansa sang Mangunguma sa Miag-ao was killed by soldiers from the 61st Infantry Battalion, also in an alleged encounter in Iloilo.
Aside from the peasant killings, KMP and human rights watchdog Tanggol Magsasaka also documented several cases of illegal arrests and detention, militarization of peasant communities, aerial bombings, and other human rights abuses in peasant communities since the imposition of the lockdown.