By Reynard Magtoto
SORSOGON CITY – Two human rights workers were killed close range by two unidentified gunmen on Saturday, June 15, the next day after they assisted the release of ‘high profile’ political prisoners.
The victims Ryan Hubilla, a senior high school student, and Nelly Bagasala were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds at around 8:20 in the morning along the road of Phase 2, Seabreeze Homes Subdivision, barangay Cabid-an in this city.
Ryan was a staff of Karapatan Sorsogon and member of League of Filipino Students in the province while Nelly was a member of Sorsogon Peoples’ Organization (SPO) a network of Karapatan Sorsogon that is composed of peasants promoting human rights in the countryside. With them during the shooting incident was Maria Lagadia, also a member of SPO and was able to escaped and survived.
The incident was less than a kilometer away from the PNP Cabid-an where the 3 political prisoners who refused to be named previously detained.
Regional Trial Court Branch 52 dismissed the political prisoners’ criminal case on May 14 and were released on June 14. They were arrested without warrant in Pilar, Sorsogon early morning on April 10 for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
During the facilitation of the case, human rights workers of Karapatan Sorsogon were already alarmed over the periodic surveillance conducted by police and military forces.
In a video sent by Karapatan Sorsogon to Baretang Bikolnon Online, Ryan Hubilla able to record two unidentified men riding on motorcycle following them and peeking inside their van when they were on their way home after they sent off the released political prisoners.
According to survivor Isabel, the two men following them on June 14 recognized them but she can’t because of their face cover. However Isabel believed the two men were connected to the June 15 killing.
The rights group in the province received report that the driver who assisted them during the release of the political prisoners were harassed at around 9:30 of the evening on June 14.
“May nagpaabot sa amin na tinutukan sya ng baril nang nakaparada na sya sa terminal. Kaya kinaumagahan hinanap namin sya para tulungan (“We received report that he [driver] was confronted with a gun when he was already in the terminal.So the next morning we searched for him to help),” said Isabel.
The driver who accompanied them was residing in Seabreeze Homes Subdivision. However when Ryan got off the tricycle to pay for the fare, he was shot by a man with .45 caliber according to Isabel.
“Hindi na bumaba si Nay Nelly dahil tinakpan na lang nya ang tenga nya. Tumakbo na ako sa sobrang takot pati ang driver ng tricycle (Nay Nelly did not get off because she just cover her ears. I run because of fear and also the driver of the tricycle) ,” Isabel added.
Progressive groups condemn the brutal killing of the two human rights workers. “Bakit ganun sila na ngang tumuluong sa masa sila pa ang pinatay (Why is that they are the one helping the masses but they are the one killed),” said Guillermo Abraham, Karapatan – Sorsogon spokesperson.
According to Rey Hababag of Bayan Sorsogon, this what Rodrigo Duterte really wanted after canceling the peace talks – silence the progressive groups and individuals to fully implement Martial Law.
Bicol region is already under de facto Martial Law because of the counter-insurgency Oplan Kapanatagan, MO 32 and Executive Order No. 70 which the Duterte Government called it the ‘whole-of-nation-approach’ being implemented through the so-called National Task Force To End Communist Armed Conflict. [Re-posted from BaretangBikolnon.com]