THE HAGUE - Friends and family of slain Dutch aid worker Willem Geertman believes that his death is politically-motivated.
In the interview by local news here in the Netherlands, the family said that they believe their brother was killed because of his advocacy in Central Luzon.
“He is already aware of that (the dangers of his advocacy) and he knows he can be killed for what he was doing but he finds his work very important so he took the risks,” said Maria Jutten, Geertman’s sister.
His family, including his brothers and sisters, flew to the Philippines on Thursday, to bury their sibling and find out the truth about his murder. They want to have an independent investigation to be conducted.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, friends and co-advocates of Geertman remembered his passion for the poor Filipinos and mourned his death.
Father Cesar Taguba, who had known Geertman for three decades, working together on projects for the indigenous people in Luzon, said that Geertman was a very committed to his mission in the Philippines. He knows him to be a very low-key person, quiet but determined.
“Ang huling panahon na nagkita kami ay noon 2005-2006 sa Baguio. Napapansin kong tumatanda na sya, nagbiruan kami na pumuputi na ating mga buhok, tawa naman sya pero naramdaman ko pa din kasi nagkwento sya ng pangangailangan lalo na ng mga katutubo sa Central Luzon at saka mga farmers at napansin ko na napakalalim ng kanyang commitment. Kapag pumupunta sya dito sa Netherlands, he makes it a point to contact ang mga Filipino communities and then palaging kinukwento nya na ang kanyang home ay ang Philippines,” said Taguba.
Taguba likened the death of Geertman to that of Father Fausto Tentorio who was killed in Cotabato in October last year. Like Tentorio, Geertman is involved in protests against mining as well as other environmental causes. He also helps farmers and workers, including those who are fighting for their land in Hacienda Luisita.
An old co-worker of Geertman, Wim van Wijk, also believes that robbery is not the motive behind Geertman’s murder. He said that his execution was pre-conceived by powerful people who do not like what he was doing.
“This week I got an email from his girlfriend and we were very shocked that the system does not have any alternative, these people always want to get rid of people who want to change the country. They only want to hold on to their richness,” said Van Wijk in Dutch.
Today, different organizations marched to the Philippine Embassy in The Hague to deliver a signed statement of concern and protest to Ambassador Lourdes Morales, demanding a thorough and impartial investigation of the case. The group includes Nederlands-Filippijnse Solidariteitsbeweging (NFS), International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP), Rice and Rights, PINAY sa Holland, Makabayang Samahan ng mga Pilipino, Kabalikat, MIGRANTE Netherlands (Amsterdam/Den Haag BAYAN Europe and MIGRANTE Europe.
Theo van Droog, chairman of NFS heard the news of his friend’s death when Balitang Europe called him on Tuesday. Like the rest of his friends and co-workers, Van Droog was shocked upon hearing the sad news.
“I couldn’t believe, I mean if you are in the Netherlands and you talk about the Philippines, they know that in the Philippines, friendly people, good people that these things won’t happen and this really is an opposite of that, really a disbelief.”
Van Droog also dispelled the allegations that Geertman is involved in the armed insurgency in the Philippines. He said that Geertman was only really working for the people. However, he also believes that politics also played a part in his death.
“I think if you see it in the context of his work and then what happens also to other people who were also doing these kind of work, people also been killed, I think it has a lot of connection with that that this is a politically-motivated killing,” said Van Droog.
Unfortunately, he is doubtful that the investigation of the Philippine authorities will not be able to prove this.
On July 15th, a commemorative mass will be held in Amsterdam in memory of Willem Geertman. Friends, families, colleagues and several Filipino communities are expected to attend.