MANILA -- Gunmen killed a leader of a left-wing party in Aklan province on Monday, a week after President Benigno Aquino III took office, vowing to put an end to political killings.
Fernando Baldomero, who escaped an attempt on his life earlier this year, was gunned down in front of his house around 6 a.m. Monday as he was about to take his child to school, according to local human rights group Karapatan.
He died on the way to the hospital, suffering from wounds to his head and neck, said provincial police chief Epifanio Bragais.
Baldomero was the chairman of Bayan Muna political party and a member of his village council in Aklan. Police quoted witnesses as saying the gunmen sped away on a motorcycle without license plates.
Bayan Muna president Satur Ocampo and party-list lawmaker Teddy Casiño condemned the assassination, saying the victim is the 145th member of the political party to fall under extrajudicial killings in the country.
“We demand an immediate and thorough investigation on the possible involvement of military and military-backed death squads in this continuing climate of impunity against government critics," said Casiño.
Amnesty International on Monday urged new Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the former head of the independent Commission on Human Rights, to end impunity for the rampant killings and enforced disappearances and to improve protection for witnesses.
"In the Philippines, members of the military, police, state-supported militias and 'private armies', as well as insurgent groups, have literally been allowed to get away with murder," said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director of the human rights watchdog.
In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called on President Aquino to use the full force of the law to arrest the perpetrators.
"Heads must roll in the AFP, or Armed Forces of the Philippines, otherwise the climate of impunity will continue,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr., accusing the government forces of perpetrating the attack.
Bayan said Baldomero had said that his house was under “surveillance” since 2008 and that he has survived several attempts on his life, including an incident last March 19 when suspects lobbed a grenade in his residence.
Baldomero was a political detainee in the 1980s, when he was accused of being a high-ranking official of the New People’s Army (NPA).
In 2005 and 2006, he was arrested for offenses attributed to the NPA, but all cases filed against him were dismissed.
Casiño and Ocampo called on Aquino to immediately scrap the government's counterinsurgency program called "Oplan Bantay Laya III" and its policy of classifying "leftist activists" as "enemies of the state."
Aquino, who succeeded Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has promised to jail perpetrators and seek justice for the victims of such killings.
The Philippines has been wracked by extrajudicial killings in the last two decades, which local 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.
But 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. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/VR/AP/Sunnex)