Activist murdered in the Philippines


Wed, Jul 07, 2010 - Page 5

Gunmen killed a local leader of a left-wing party in the Philippines, one week after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office vowing to put an end to political assassinations.

Fernando Baldomero, who escaped an attempt on his life earlier this year, was gunned down on Monday in front of his house as he was about to take his child to school, according to authorities and left-wing human rights group Karapatan.

He died on the way to the hospital from wounds to his head and neck, provincial police chief Epifanio Bragais said.

The Philippines has been wracked by extrajudicial killings in the last two decades, which human rights groups have largely blamed on security forces. The military often describes the victims as communist rebels, who have been fighting for a Marxist state.

However, Karapatan said more than 1,000 of those killed have been left-wing activists, party members and farmers. In most cases, the assailants have escaped and the cases remain unsolved, the group said, calling for an immediate investigation into the ­latest attack.

Baldomero was the chairman of Bayan Muna political party and a member of his village council in Aklan Province. Police quoted witnesses as saying the gunmen sped away on a motorcycle without license plates.

“Today we march for justice. Fernando Baldomero should be the first and last activist to be killed under the Aquino regime,” said a statement from the allied umbrella organization Bayan.

It called on Aquino to send “a strong message to his troops that the killings are unacceptable.”

In other developments, a Chinese shopkeeper held hostage by Islamist militants for nearly 19 months in the Philippines has walked free after his abductors clashed with police, officials said yesterday.

Wu Xili, an illegal immigrant who also goes by the name Peter Go, was rescued after a firefight with Abu Sayyaf militants on Jolo island late on Monday, regional military chief Lieutenant-General Ben Dolorfino said.

Police said there were no reports of casualties on either side after the 10-minute firefight. They said they recovered two rifles, a grenade and machine-gun bullets from the scene of the clash.