A new murder case undermines the security of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines. Antonio Petalcorin, 56 years old, leaves wife and children behind.
In the morning of the 2nd of July, 2013, Antonio Petalcorin was shot by an unknown perpetrator on his way to work at 8am. He was hit by four bullets, one in the left temple, in the neck, breast and one in the left shoulder. Unfortunately, all help came too late, he just succumbed to his injuriescaused by the fired bullets. Antonio Petalcorin, also called “Dodong”, was president of the Network of Transport Organization (NETO), an affiliate of National Confederation of Transport-workers Union (NCTU) – Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL). But he was not the only victim. Another murder and also one attempted murder of two colleagues of Antonio Petalcorin shocked Davao City in Mindanao in January and April, 2013. All three were very ambitious in their activities to fight against the increasing oil prices and other problems around the brunch of public transport. However, they gained the biggest attention with exposing a bribery and corruption affair in which important leaders from LTFRB were involved. On the 27th October, 2012, the television channel GMA 7 reported that the usual amount of money that people have to pay for purchasing a drivers licence is roundabout 6000Php.
Frighteningly, those researches showed that if one would pay all the necessary bribes, the amount of money that people have to pay would be ten times higher than the usual fees. This was the topic Antonio Petalcorin was working on, in the course of an anti-corruption campaign in collaboration with the APL, of which he also was a member.
The Alliance of Progressive Labor is a “national labor center”. Consistent with its belief in social movement unionism, APL has built itself as a “multi-form center”, drawing into its fold various forms of labour organizations and not just trade unions. In the future, the APL sees itself as a singular union structure consolidated along industry and geographical lines. The APL, which is also investigating the murder of Antonio Petalcorin, suspects a connection between his encouragement in the anti-corruption campaign and his death. Since the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is still not investigating the circumstances of Petalcorins death, it is widely assumed that this is another case of bribe paying and once more reflects the corruption issues present in the Philippines. As a part of the anti- corruption campaign, Antonio Petalcorin filed a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman Mindanao, charging Benjamin A. Go, the regional director of LTFRB, on the 28th November, 2012. It seems as a result of that, Emilio de Jesus Rivera, a co-complainant of Antonio Petalcorin, was assassinated by a contract killer near the LTFRB Office on the 25th January, 2013. This was followed by two bomb attacks against Carlos “Toto” Cirilo, on the 21th April and the 21th May, but, fortunately, both failed. He was working on the anti-corruption campaign as well and is now hiding himself. All three had leading positions in the anti-corruption campaign.
This affair has caused a stir all over the Philippines. Even president Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has been informed. He is supposed to provide the security of Human Right Defenders, which the Philippines are obliged to by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10. December, 1948.
In the media, however, the case is really problematic. According to a statement of the APL, some journalists, who were planning to report about these cases, have already been threatened by their supervisors.By now, one very spectacular Television interview in which a witness called the TV station and reported that he was determined to be the killer of Antonio Petalcorin, has found its way to the public. Ostensibly, Benjamin Go hired him as contract killer but someone else already committed the murder. Now the APL is trying to get in contact with the “almost murderer” with the help of the TV station. He would be a valuable witness in the case.
Currently, there is a petition action organized by the APL to put the president under pressure and to gain more attention in public. By now, it already reached about 11 300 signings [04.08.2013].Only time will tell in what ways president Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III will take measures to solve this case or not. But it is clear that his further reaction will have an immense influence on the continuing investigations.