PAMPANGA, Philippines - Disputing police reports, militant groups yesterday claimed the killing of Dutch missionary Willem Geertman here last Tuesday was “premeditated and not just a case of robbery.”
The human rights group Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Central Luzon released a report saying Geertman had been a victim of the military’s “villification and harrassment” since the 1990s.
The two groups also debunked the police report that said Geertman was a victim of robbery based on initial investigation that showed the killers fled with P1.2 million that the Dutchman had withdrawn from a bank in Angeles City.
The Dutch government, on the other hand, urged Philippine authorities to hold the killers of Geertman accountable.
Dutch Ambassador Robert G. Brinks expressed hope that the authorities will prosecute the killers of Geertman.
He said the Netherlands embassy in Manila, in partnership with local human rights organizations, has supported dialogues with the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, law enforcement, and human rights defenders.
Brinks noted Geertman’s years of involvement with local development and humanitarian organizations.
The Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines also expressed concern over the killing of Geertman and called for an immediate investigation.
“Witnesses saw the killing as an execution, which could lead many of us to say that this could be another case of extrajudicial killing, taking note of Geertman’s record as a social worker who has worked very closely with rural folk and farmers in Pampanga,” Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines said.
Geertman’s killing occurred a few months after the Philippines was subjected to the Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
“With this, we strongly sound the alarm and fervently call on the Philippine government to start an independent team to investigate the killing of Willem Geertman and bring to the court the culprit of such heinous crime. We also call upon the Dutch government to assist in this process,” the UNHRC said.
The Bayan-Karapatan report noted Geertman had stayed mostly in the country in the last 47 years but that in 1991 he went back to Europe and stayed there for 10 years.
When he went back to the Philippines, they claimed “villification and harassment” against Geertman “intensified.”
“From 2006 to 2007, Willem was among those maligned by the military’s 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Aurora. They propagated a fake letter of communication indicating Willem as ranking leader of the underground revolutionary movement gathering support for the making and stockpiling of improvised explosives in the town of San Luis,” the report said.
The groups said their fact-finding mission indicated the killing of Geertman was premeditated.
“The victim has long been subjected to vilification campaign by the military due to his advocacy and his work with the poor and oppressed and their organizations,” the report added.
The military earlier denied the allegations in branding them irresponsible without any proof.
Geertman, executive director of Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI), was shot by two unidentified men a few meters from his office in Barangay Telebastagan here at noon Tuesday.
The 67-year-old Dutch missionary was reportedly assisting farm workers in Hacienda Luisita in his capacity as an official of ABI, The hacienda is owned by President Aquino’s family.
“Prior to the shooting of Geertman, ABI staff observed suspicious looking men loitering outside their office. The neighbors also reported men peeping at the gates and fences of the office. That was three days before Romualdo Palispis, a former colleague, was gunned down in the town of Maria Aurora (in Aurora province),” the report said.
The remains of Geertman are set to be motored today to Ma. Aurora in a caravan seeking justice for his murder, amid allegations that the suspects were from the military.
A ceremony honoring his “heroism” was slated for last night by his colleagues and supporters during his wake at the compound of ABI in Barangay Telebastagan.
The groups noted Geertman’s advocacy in protecting the environment in Central Luzon through the ABI.
ABI employees, meanwhile, were invited by the police for investigation into the killing.
“We are looking for any angles in the shooting to death of the missionary... we don’t know if he (Geertman) had an enemy,” Senior Superintendent Rudy Lacadin of the regional police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said.
Pampanga police provincial director Senior Superintendent Edgardo Tinio said the task force investigating the killing is still gathering more evidence on the motive.
Tinio said that as of yesterday the motive of the killing is still robbery since the gunmen also took away the victim’s bag containing P1.2 million in cash.
He said the investigators are still checking the license plate numbers of the getaway motorcycle of the killers. – Pia Lee-Brago, Ric Sapnu