The Alliance for People’s Health and the Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice condemn the shocking and horrific assassination of Rene “Toto” Quirante, Chairman of the legal organization KAUGMA-ON, the Guihulngan chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) working to address the human rights of peasant farmers.
Rene Quirante was shot dead at around two in the morning October 1, 2010, in Sitio Amomoyong, Barangay Trinidad, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. He had traveled to the Barangay for a legal meeting of the local Kaogma-on and had decided to stay overnight at the home of a local family because the meeting ended close to dark making travel difficult. During the night they were awakened by men forcibly entering the house, men who appeared to be members of the 11th IB PA, an infantry battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). These men dragged Rene Quirante out into the yard and shot him in the head and the chest, in view of the family and their nine children.
The Armed Forces considers Negros Island as a priority area under Oplan Bantay Laya, the national counter-insurgency program which was launched under the direction of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2002. This program replicates previous counter-insurgency programs of the Marcos, Ramos, and Estrada regimes, and has been decried by human rights observers as treating legal organizations as military targets and waging a war of counterinsurgency against such groups as lawyers, human rights observers, and members of the Church. President Benigno S. Aquino III has extended Oplan Bantay Laya, and only 3 months into his regime the trend of Extra Judicial Killings continues. Rene Quirante was the 14th victim of political killings since the recent Aquino election in June, 2010.
Rene “Toto” Quirante was a friend of members of the Alliance for People’s Health. We travelled to his home in Guihulngan, where we met with local leaders of Kaogma-on to learn about the health and economic situations of the peasant farmers, and worked together with Kaogma-on members to address the health issues of rural communities. Rene Quirante was one of the local organizers of the September 2008 Medical Mission in Guihulngan in which members of the Alliance for People’s Health directly participated. This important mission, which brought health care to the most marginalized sectors of Philippine society, was organized and sponsored by Kaogma-on Guihulngan, with the support and participation of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program and the Council for Health and Development, partner organizations of the Alliance for People’s Health.
As health care professionals, teachers, union representatives, and allies with legal Filipino organizations, we are completely outraged at this recent political execution, and with the continuing trend of Extra Judicial Killings under the Arroyo Presidency. We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines; in light of the fact that our 43 colleagues (the Morong 43) are still being illegally detained, our mounting concern grows daily.
We stand with organizations in the Philippines, in Canada, and internationally when we call upon President Benigno S. Aquino III to ensure the timely investigation of Rene Quirante’s case by members of human rights organizations, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights. We call on President Benigno S. Aquino III to withdraw support from Oplan Bantay Laya, and order the military to stop targeting human rights defenders. We call upon President Benigno S. Aquino III to uphold the rights of Filipinos to form legal organizations to address the social, economic, and political issues of their communities. Finally, we call upon President Benigno S. Aquino III and the Philippine Government to uphold its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and take these immediate actions to draw a close to the gross history of human rights violations in the Philippines.
Erika Del Carmen Fuchs