Celso Pojas, also chair of the Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC), was buying cigarettes near his office in Barangay Ma-a here when attacked by two gunmen around 6 a.m., Kelly Delgado, Karapatan secretary general for Southern Mindanao, said.
His colleagues at the FADC said they were preparing to leave for Compostela town in Compostela Valley to look into the plight of lumad evacuees there when Pojas excused himself to buy cigarettes.
Pojas’s colleagues inside the FADC-KMP office said they heard four gunshots. A witness said Pojas was still able to run toward the office, crying for help. He fell to the ground just before reaching the gate.
Investigators from the Talomo Police Station said Pojas was hit in his right rib and in his left arm. Police said they also recovered two caliber .45 shells in the scene.
Pedro Arnado, KMP vice chair for Southern Mindanao, said the group does not have any suspect other than the military.
“This is a case of extrajudicial killing done at the height of KMP’s campaign against militarization of farmers and lumad (indigenous) communities in Compostela Valley,” Arnado said.
Shortly before he was shot, Pojas was preparing to leave for Compostela town in Compostela Valley province to attend to peasant and lumads who had evacuated from the hinterlands due to intensifying military operations, according to the KMP. Pojas, the group said, had been receiving death threats since December last year.
A brother-in-law of Pojas added “And that he was a staunch critic of the government’s anti-people policy, on top of his recent public appearances where he lambasted the military operations in Compostela Valley as it had adversely affected the sector that is closest to his heart, could very well be the reason for his death.”
Pojas was set to go to Compostela with Delgado this morning after receiving reports that soldiers had allegedly entered last night the municipality gymnasium where some 300 evacuees had sought refuge since Tuesday.
Celso Pojas was the 14th activist killed in the Philippines this year and the 903rd since President Gloria Arroyo assumed office in 2001. Local and international groups, including the United Nations, have condemned the Arroyo regime for the series of extrajudicial killings in the country.
One sign of what is going on is the issuing of silencers to special military groups.
“The procurement of this kind of firearms is just for special ops,” says Scout Ranger officer who requested to remain anonymous.
The officer, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, told the Phillipines Daily Inquirer his unit received the guns three years ago, along with an “order of battle” listing the names of state enemies for “neutralization.”
One active general says military officers resort to political executions because the government is apparently tolerating it. “It’s a good accomplishment for them,” he says of his colleagues.
“Apparently, these people are acting on the basis of how to please her,” the general says, referring to Ms Arroyo.
Both the active and retired generals whom the Inquirer spoke to said that all one had to do was to take note of the President’s “body language.”
The Scout Ranger officer who said he got a gun with a silencer says men in uniform are trained to follow orders. The military “discourages” political and social awareness, making it easy for some to kill an enemy, he says.
The following reports comes from MISNA.
FARMER LEADER KILLED
Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead the spokesman of the KMP (Farmers Movement of the Philippines) in Davao, in southern Mindanao. Celso Pojas, who was also chairman of the Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC), was shot three times at around 6:30 a.m this morning outside his office. “He was killed for his opposition to the militarisation of peasant and lumad communities in the southern Mindanao region”, said the KMP leader Rafael Mariano. Pojas’s colleagues say that his killing is part of a military campaign to silence all critics of a government proposal to arm farmers to fight the communist rebellion in the region. “Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001, over 1,000 people have been victims of extra-judicial killings, 105 were KMP members”, continued Mariano. The government’s failure to take any substantial action in face of the long string of political killings, mainly targeting extreme left activists, farmer association leaders, but also many civil society representatives and journalists, is among the most controversial aspects of Arroyo’s presidency. An independent fact-finding commission headed by the former Supreme Court judge Jose Melo last year drew up a report attributing a majority of the killings to “military elements”, calling on the President to take the necessary measures.