Groups mourn murder of urban poor leader

Kyle Aristophere Atienza

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Groups mourn murder of urban poor leader
Kabataan party worries that many would face the same fate as Kadamay leader Carlito Badion if the anti-terror bill is passed

MANILA, Philippines – Several groups slammed the continuing attacks against activists and critics, after longtime Kadamay leader Carlito Badion was found dead in Ormoc City last Thursday, May 28.

Badion’s body was found near a highway in Ormoc City in Leyte, bloated and almost decomposing, based on the account of his daughter Esther Anne Cabrillas. The group Courage said Badion’s “body was burned and bore signs of torture.”

Initial police reports said Badion was abducted on May 26 by unknown assailants. Kadamay said Badion was red-tagged and sent death threats via text messages days before his abduction.

They slammed the murder of Badion, saying that the urban poor leader has repeatedly received death threats throughout President Rodrigo Duterte’s term and was reportedly surveilled by state forces.

Wala siyang kasalanan kundi ang mag-alay ng buong panahon para sa maralita at inaapi ng bulok na sistemang panlipunan,” Kadamay said. (He has no fault but to give all his time to the poor and disadvantaged in this broken system.)

Championing rights

Fondly called “Karletz,” the Kadamay leader championed the rights and welfare of the homeless and informally settled, leading campaigns for mass-oriented housing and going against demolitions.

At the forefront of Kadamay’s occupation campaign of idle houses in Pandi, Bulacan, in 2017 was Badion, along with other urban poor leaders. Around 4,000 residents have taken over the resettlement sites, with Kadamay saying the government should give them away for free. (READ: Occupy Bulacan: How the urban homeless won shelter)

While President Duterte agreed to give the houses away, he threatened the group with violence from the elite Special Action Force if they repeat their occupation of houses.

Since the enforcement of the lockdown, the Philippines has seen a surge in the number of murdered rights activists. 

Two days before the red-tagged Kadamay leader was found dead, Allan “Mano Boy” Aguilando, chairperson of Northern Samar Small Farmers Association, was killed in Northern Samar. 

Four others have also been murdered during the lockdown according to reports from human rights group Karapatan. These include cultural activist Marlon Maldos, woman peasant leader Nora Apique, peasant leader John Farochilin and Bayan Muna relief volunteer Jory Porquia who were gunned down in Iloilo on separate occasions in April. All of them were reportedly red-tagged and received death threats prior to death.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said that Badion was “another victim of state-sponsored murders,” saying that his death comes at a time when “fellow urban poor activists were repeatedly and ruthlessly maligned and harassed, and were labeled as criminals, or worse as enemies of the state, as terrorists.”

Fear of more deaths

Kadamay noted that the murder occurred as Congress rushes to pass a toughened version of the Philippine anti-terror bill, which seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 and strengthens the hand of the police and the military against terrorism.

In the proposed anti-terror legislation, “suspected terrorists” can already be detained by law enforcement authorities up to 14 days without warrant of arrest issued by the Court and could face a sentence amounting to life imprisonment without parole. 

Kabataan Partylist raised concerns that others might face the same fate as Badion if the anti-terror bill is passed, saying that “dissent and criticism of the government could easily be branded as terrorism” in the “vague” provisions of the said measure. (READ: Fears of losing freedoms escalate as Congress rushes to pass anti-terror bill)

“[Badion’s] murder should send a clear message to the lawmakers who are fiercely backing the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law,” said Gaite. – Rappler.com

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