Killer of Human Rights Activist Identified
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers have welcomed the positive identification of AFP soldiers involved in the killing of national democratic organizer Benjamin Bayles:
On the confirmation, positive identification, and specific personal pinpointing in Negros court of killers of activist Benjamin Bayles by top Army officials (PA Adjutant Col. Alexis Gopico and 61st IB Commander Col. Richard Bayhon) that they are enlisted personnel under their command:
This is a welcome development and high point in making extra-judicial killings perpetrators accountable. This is ultimately a product of public vigilance and pressure by human rights defenders aided also by conscientious legal work. Amidst strong evidence, the military was compelled to admit this fact.
But it remains to be seen if this leads to deeper investigation, determination of other guilty parties, including possibly superior officers. Accused who are lowly private first class personnel may be sacrificial, dispensable small fry to stop investigation and let the masterminds escape identification and prosecution.
As in the case of Jonas Burgos and other rights violations, there is no closure until there is full justice for the victims and all perpetrators made to account.
The killers of Bayles, a member of Bayan Muna and lay minister of the Iglesia Independiente Filipina, were arrested at a checkpoint within hours after the crime. Suspects Private First Class Rafael Cordova and Private First Class Reygine Laus initially identified themselves as civilians using the pseudonyms Roger Bajon and Ronnie Caurino, respectively. NUPL lawyers from the Negros Occidental chapter and the national secretariat serve as private prosecutors.