By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — After evading the law for 18 years, one more accused killer of a human rights worker is now incarcerated. Identified as one of the five members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit who mercilessly murdered Cristopher Batan in 1993.
The Public Information Officer of the PROCOR (Police Regional Office in the Cordillera) identified the accused as Mathew or Mateo Fanao, who is now committed at the Baguio City jail.
Fanao, a former Barangay Captain and ABC President of Sadanga town, Mountain Province, is claimed by PROCOR to have surrendered on September 8 to Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan. Ganggangan accompanied Fanao to the Regional Trial Court Branch 59 here that has afterwards committed Fanao to the city jail here.
The development was welcomed by relatives of the late Cristopher Batan, then a staff member of the Mountain Province Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and an active human rights advocate when he was murdered by the CAFGU unit in 1993.
Cirilo Batan, an older brother of Cristopher, who has worked hard for justice even under threat expressed deep relief as the wheels of justice turns by the jailing of Fanao.
“We would like to commend those who worked for the incarceration of Fanao. After 18 years, he is now in jail. But we still quest for the attainment of full justice for the murder of my brother,” the elder Batan said in an interview.
A check at the RTC Branch 59 showed that a warrant of arrest was issued against Fanao in 2004 when he was identified by one of his co-accused.
Despite the warrant for his arrest issued by the court, Fanao was able to evade arrest due to his political connections, according to sources in Mountain Province.
Fanao was elected Barangay Captain of Betwagan, Sadanga in 2007.
Records from the COMELEC-CAR and the DILG-CAR showed that Fanao was elected also as president of the Association of Barangay Captains for Sadanga and elected as vice-president of the ABC in Mountain Province in the same year.
Batan wrote the president, the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Human Rights raising the issue on the non-arrest of Fanao. Accordingly, the DILG under Secretary Robredo issued a memo to concerned offices to effect the arrest of Fanao.
“I am still confused if Fanao really surrendered or if he was arrested based on the DILG order,” said a source monitoring the Batan case.
In an unverified report, Fanao was arrested by the PNP Sadanga. Nordis tried to reach Sadanga Chief of Police Marcial L. Valdez to verify the report but he failed to get an answer to queries via SMS as of press time.
Genesis of the case
Nordis learned that on Feb. 23, 1993, Batan and his companion Mila Fanaang and Anglican priest Eduardo Solang were on their way to Betwagan to document human rights cases that would be included in a class suit against the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.
Just as they crossed the Chico River on the hangging bridge at the approach of Betwagan, five armed CAFGU shot at the trio. Batan was hit on the hip and one CAFGU approached the group and shot Batan at close range, causing his death.
A murder case was filed in Bontoc, Mountain Province against the CAFGU. Afterwards a warrant was issued against them.
The peacepact of the accused Betwagan tribe and the victim’s family tribe of Lias, Barlig, Mountain Province was severed. As the security of the witnesses were threatened, the Batan’s family filed a petition before the Supreme Court for a transfer of venue for the hearing to this city, which the High Court granted. RTC Branch 59 in this city, which acquired jurisdiction over the case, had issued warrants of arrest against the five accused CAFGUs.
Accused Agustin Agpawa was arrested in 1994 while Bonifacio Chumacog in 2003. Both were convicted and are serving their sentences in prison up to this day.
On Jan. 17, 2008, a third accused Panyong Rongan surrendered to the PNP in Sadanga. He was jailed at the city jail here but was able to post bail in 2010. Unlike his two accused Agpawa and Chumacog, he was acquitted from the murder case.
Quest for full justice
With the alleged surrender of Fanao lately, Kengeb Fayno, the fifth accused, is the only one remaining at large.
The Batan kin, friends, and human rights advocates still quest for the full justice for the murder of Cristopher.
“We urge the concerned authorities to immediately effect the arrest of Fayno. We want that full justice be realized on the murder of my brother as we enter almost two decades of pursuing the case,” Batan said in an interview. # nordis.net