Aquino urged to carefully probe Guingona suspect-A A +A
Sunday, September 22, 2013
A CHURCH leader from Auckland, New Zealand urged President Benigno Aquino III to be prudent in investigating one of the suspects linked to the ambush of former Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona last April.
In his letter to Aquino posted by Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao through its Facebook page, Reverend Deacon Chris Sullivan wants the government to be thorough in its investigation of Joel Yagao’s case.
“I urge you to carefully investigate the arrest of Joel Q. Yagao, to make sure he is properly and fairly treated, and to promptly release him unless there is credible evidence that he is guilty of any crime,” Sullivan’s letter said.
Yagao is a human rights defender who was arrested last September 8 by a composite team of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police while in a meeting with his co-workers inside the vicinity of the catholic church of Sullivan at 11:00 a.m.
Yagao was charged with double murder and multiple frustrated murder in connection with the attack involving the New People’s Army (NPA) and the armed escorts of Guingona.
“I am very concerned at the pattern of harassment and assassinations of Church human rights workers in the Philippines and I urge your government to take firm action to make sure that these vulnerable Church members are properly protected,” the letter added.
Before Yagao, authorities arrested two other suspects because of their alleged involvement in the Gingoog shooting incident which the NPA owned and vowed to the Guingonas that a probe would be conducted.
Last July, Modesto Bernas, a farmer with eight children from Gingoog City, was seized by the government troops at 12:00 p.m. in the presence of his family.
Reynaldo Gundaya, a husband of a barangay kagawad from the municipality of Claveria, Misamis Oriental, was also arrested at the same time as Bernas while resting in a hut near his farm.
“Suod na siya sa mga bata (Joel has a good relationship with his kids),” said Joel’s wife, Hildegrade, a staff of the provincial government of Misamis Oriental.
Hildegrade told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that his husband is a good father to his kids.
She said that Joel would accompany his kids to and from school especially when the rain is heavy and if she is busy with her work.
“Buntag siya galuto sa balon nako og sa akong mga bata para sa skwelahan (Joel used to cook food for breakfast so the kids and I can bring something for lunch),” Hidelgrade said.
Joel as a father is a disciplinarian according to his wife.
“Nasubo mi sa nahitabo sa akong bana (We were disappointed with what happened to my husband),” Hidelgrade said.
She said that her officemates are willing to testify in court because they know Joel and they could not believe that he would be involved in murder cases.
“Sige sila panawag kay kung kuhaon ba sila nga witness kay mosugot gyud sila (My officemates would call me asking if I would take them as witnesses, because they surely would agree),” Joel’s wife said.
Even some councilors know him because he used to solicit from them (politicians) if they have activities for the welfare of the farmers.
“Nakurat gyud ko (I was shocked),” she said, adding she couldn't think of any motive behind her husband's arrest.
She said it was not political because during the last election they did not support any local politician.
His wife said that at the time Guingona’s convoy was ambushed by the NPA in Gingoog, Yagao was in Cagayan de Oro joining Teddy Casiño’s political sortie in his bid for the Senate. He was accompanied by one of his children.
“After the campaign we went home,” she added.
Hidelgrade said that it would be impossible for her husband to immediately reach Gingoog and participate in an ambush after a very tiring day.
In an article published by Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on September 11, the army said that Yagao was positively identified by a rebel returnee who used to be a liaison officer of the NPA’s Guerilla 4B, North Central Mindanao Committee, the unit who owned up the incident.
“Gusto rana sila (military) magpa-impress sa mga Guingona na naa silay nadakpan (They (military) only want to impress the Guingonas by arresting someone),” Hidelgrade said.
In the same article, Fr. Chris Ablon, the secretary-general of Karapatan, a human rights group based in Northern Mindanao, said that Yagao is another “fall guy” and that he had nothing to do with the attack.
Hidelgrade said that if the Guingonas want justice, it is the kind that truly does justice.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 22, 2013.