THREE priests and a fact-finding team said Thursday they were almost confronted by death when several bonnet-wearing blue guards fired at them, said Fred Caña, secretary-general of Karapatan-Negros.

The blue guards belonged to the JACOA Security Agency, said Caña.

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The priests were Fr. Paul Medina, Fr. Gerry Sabado, chairperson and national coordinator of PCPR- Negros, and Richard Lidres, secretary of PCPR-North.

The team was composed of PCPR, Karapatan, NFSW, KMP, Pamalakaya, Gabriela-North, Kabataan Party-list, NIHIP and NRAP Inc. which Caña said “heard gun fires…and fired.”

He said the incident occurred when the team was entering Minauyahan where they will investigate the reported cases of human rights violation in the said area (in Barangay Minautok, Calatrava) in northern Negros Occidental.

“We met with gunfire upon arrival by armed goons,” said Caña, adding that the “armed guards” were very arrogant and showed no sign of respect to the team.

“They would not even reveal their names even if approached by Fr. Paul Medina and Fr. Gerry Sabado in a friendly way,” said Caña.

They have their guns even cocked and kept their heads covered with ski-mask despite being asked with favor to unmask of their faces, added Caña.

“This kind of arrogant attitude for armed guards who are not wearing proper uniform, name tags and agency patches, is a blatant violation of proper decorum of keeping peace and order in the area,” said Caña, adding that even the PNP and AFP under 62nd IB, PA headed by 1st Lt. Ruben Ayroso cannot even request them to unmasked their face and disclosed their names.

“Isn’t this disrespect to people of authority? If they can do this to the authorities and the priests, how much harmed can they inflict to innocent civilians who are powerless and poor. Isn’t this also a violation of gun ban which is commanded by the Comelec?,” Caña asked.

Further Caña cited that not even Barangay Captain Rodolfo Lumayno could help discipline the armed goons.

“And so people are in grave threat and living in fear of their lives. The people in the village reported to us the following human rights violations they experienced in the area that includes indiscriminate firing, grave threat, harassment and intimidation, mauling, divestment and destruction of properties and inflicting physical injuries.”

Caña said the team will seek for intervention of the Comelec, PNP, the local government of Calatrava and the Provincial Government to conduct immediate investigation on the claims of the villagers of human rights violation.

Also, the team, called for the dismantling and disarming of the armed guards in the town and be sanctioned with gun ban rule.

“And make other actions to stop the perpetration of inhuman, violent and criminal acts that threatened the life of the people,” said Caña.

The people who are hungry and in dire need of surviving took an alternative way of cultivating the land yet they are deprived of their basic economic rights, persecuted and criminalized, instead of getting help from the government and greedy landlords, stressed Caña.

We call on all the people to be vigilant and to defend their basic human rights for they are God-given rights which no man can ever violate, he said. (George M. De La Cruz)