15 years after the murder of Human Rights worker
BAGUIO CITY (Mar. 27) — A Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge issued anew a warrant for the arrest of an alleged killer of a human rights worker who was killed 15 years ago.
The accused allegedly evaded arrest due to his political connections and is even elected officer of the Mountain Province Association of Barangay Captains (ABC).
Ordered arrested by RTC Branch 59 is Mathew B. Fanao, who was elected as Barangay Captain of Betwagan in Sadanga, Mountain Province, and is now a provincial ABC official. He was among the five accused in the killing of human rights worker Christopher Lognason Batan near the Chico River in Betwagan in 1993.
According to records from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also showed that Fanao won as ABC president of Sadanga and afterwards as vice-president of the ABC in Mountain Province in December last year despite the warrant of arrest – and alias warrants – that had been issued by an RTC in this city since 2004.
Batan’s lawyer and friends urged concerned government agencies to execute the immediate arrest of Fanao and Kengeb Fayno, his remaining co-accused at large.
Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas could not help but wonder why police failed to arrest Fanao, saying they could easily get him.
Fanao is a Barangay Captain, the town’s ABC president of Sadanga, and the provincial ABC vice-president of Mountain Province.
“Usually in a case like this, they could have served the warrant easily. Not in this case,” added Molintas, who was Batan’s main private prosecutor since the case was filed in Bontoc and transferred in this city. Batan is one of the celebrated human rights cases being handled by Molintas, who is also national vice-president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
Other Nordis sources claimed that Fanao, like his co-accused who were CAFGu members, enjoyed political and military protections. “If they (government security forces) are sincere, they could have arrested all of the accused in the killing of Chris Batan,” a source pointed out.
Genesis of the case
On February 23, 1993, Batan and his companions 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 Marcoses.
After they crossed the Chico River and while approaching Betwagan, five armed CAFGU shot the trio. Batan was hit on the hip and one CAFGU went near and shot Batan causing his death.
A murder case was filed in Bontoc, Mountain Province against the two identified CAFGU namely, Agustin Agpawa and Chumacog based on the statements of Fanaang and Solang while the other three accused were included as John Does. It was in 2003 when Chumacog identified the three as Mateo Fanao, Kengeb Fayno, Jr. and Panyong Rongan where afterwards warrant was issued against them.
From Bontoc to Baguio
After the filing of the case in Bontoc, the tension between the accused Betwagan tribe and the victim Lias tribe of Barlig, Mountain Province led Batan’s family to petition the Supreme Court for transfer of venue which the said court granted.
Agpawa was arrested one year after the killing and Bonifacio Chumacog arrested in 2003. Chumacog was convicted afterwards on June 29, 2004 for the Batan’ murder and is now at the National Bilibid Penitentiary in Muntinlupa.
In January 17 this year, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported to RTC Branch 59 based in this city that Panyong Rongan surrendered to the PNP in Sadanga. He is now detained at the Baguio City Jail, arraigned and pleaded not guilty on March 24, a Nordis source said.
In the first week of March this year, RTC Branch 59 issued another alias warrant of arrest for Mateo Fanao a.k.a. Mathew B. Fanao and his remaining co-accused Kengeb Fayno who is at large. The warrant amended the earlier warrant as accused Fayno has been using the first name Mathew in local government transactions including the elections. The amendment was filed at the City Prosecutor’s Office in October last year based on the affidavits of witnesses, Nordis learned.
RTC Branch 59 furnished the warrant first week this month to the PNP station command in Sadanga, Cordillera Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-CAR), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the PNP Regional Mobile Group for the arrest of Fanao and Fayno.
Nordis through SMS message contacted PNP CAR General Eugene Martin to know the development of the enforcement of the warrant.
In his text message, Martin claimed he is presently monitoring the case as he already dispatched his men to the area.
Batan’s kin, friends, and human right workers joined the call for government agencies to arrest Fanao and Fayno.
“Like those who had been supporting Cris case, we call for the immediate arrest of the accused at-large,” a Lias tribesman said.
Batan was 25 when he was murdered by the five CAFGUs in 1993. He was a provincial staff of the Tasked Force Detainees in the Philippines and active member of a human rights group in the province at the time of his death. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS