“He is really known in Lemery as a leader who advocates for the interests of the people,” Bayan-Batangas secretary general Juna Arante said.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Kenneth Reyes, 28, president of Bayan-Batangas and barangay captain of Maguihan, Lemery, Batangas, was an active participant in various struggles of residents of Lemery. “He is known as someone who can easily be counted on by the people that he served,” said Juna Arante, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Batangas chapter. Arante added that “His (Reyes’) vigor in performing his duties first as a barangay councilor and then as a barangay captain since October 2010 were the fondest memories he gave to his constituents, friends and families.”
Reyes was gunned down last April 11, around 1:00 am, by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Maguihan village, Lemery, Batangas. Reyes is among the 45 activists killed under the administration of Benigno S. Aquino III based on Bulatlat.com’s monitoring.
Reyes had just arrived home from a seminar in Cebu when he was gunned down. Witnesses said the gunmen casually walked away from the crime scene and immediately left aboard a white car.
Reyes sustained four gun-shot wounds from a .45 pistol, three in his stomach and one is in his back that went through his chest. He was rushed to the Our Lady of Cassasay Medical Center but was dead on arrival.
Arante and Reyes both worked for Bayan-Batangas. Arante said that Reyes is a known leader of vendors and fishermen in Lemery. Arante is also the secretary general of People First Coalition (PFC), a multi-sectoral alliance in Batangas.
“As a leader of PFC, his main work is in the city proper of Lemery, Batangas. He leads protest actions, as well as campaigns of local organizations. He is really known in Lemery as a leader who advocates for the interests of the people,” said Arante in a telephone interview with Bulatlat.
Reyes’s active participation against demolition in Maguihan and in other multi-sectoral issues affecting the people of Lemery is the closest motive we could think of for killing him, said Arante. “Kenneth’s staunch devotion to stop the demolition in Villarica land in Maguihan village has long caught the ire of those who wanted to seize the land for commercial purposes.”
Not only a good and active leader, Reyes was also a friend one can depend on, as Bayan-Batangas remembered him, said Arante, who told Bulatlat, “He is someone we can also turn to when we need help in transportation fares, logistics and other technical needs and he made sure that he provides the help we needed.”
Not Related to Illegal Drugs
The Philippine National Police in Batangas however said the murder is related to politics and illegal drugs. In a news report, Senior Superintendent Alberto Supapo, Batangas police director, said that before the incident Reyes had been arrested for illegal drugs.
This was strongly refuted by the Provincial Council and Secretariat of Bayan-Batangas which held a Fact Finding Mission right after the killing. Arante said that a systematic pattern of surveillance and harassment was established before the assassination of Reyes. The team also looked into possible personal rifts or political rivalries, but friends and acquaintances who have been interviewed denied any such angle, saying drugs could neither be a motive.
“Not one among his constituents in Maguihan and acquaintances could say that he has been into drugs or into any illegal activityin recent years. Nor was Kenneth arrested previously for drug possession, as maliciously being spread by the provincial police,” Arante said.
For Bayan-Batangas, Reyes is a servant of the people’s struggle for land and justice. “They should stop clouding the political nature of Kenneth’s death with hog-wash; they should focus instead on running after the death squads that have lingered on despite the deployment in Maguihan of so-called peace and order measures.”
A week before Reyes’s killing, his relatives noticed some men walking around Reyes’ house, and a white car without plate number — the same car that was allegedly used by the gunmen as get-away car– roaming in Reyes’s house premises.
Also in December 2010, according to Bayan-Batangas, a troop of policemen from the Batangas Provincial Police Office (BPPO) were deployed at the barangay hall of Maguihan. The Maguihan barangay hall served as police base for supposedly conducting peace and order measures in the area. Since they arrived, the police began asking about Reyes, his organizational affiliations and the background even of his village personnel.
The same incident happened in February 2010 when members of Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) went to the Municipal Comelec Office in Lemery to get information about Reyes . “The men identified themselves as members of CIDG, and they took ID pictures of Kenneth and his profile as well as of his two other colleagues, Beth Hogaldo, an active member of Bayan Muna and councilor of Lemery and Resty Tolosa, chairman of Kabataan Partylist in Lemery.” The incident happened at the height of Reyes’s campaign for Bayan Muna Partylist.
“These personnel didn’t even bother to explain why they did such a thing when they could in fact talk to Kenneth anytime or visit him at the barangay hall. He was a public figure after all,” Arante said.
Extrajudicial Killings Continue Aquino
“The Aquino administration has repeatedly assured the public that he will not tolerate human rights atrocities against leaders and members of progressive organizations like those perpetrated under the Arroyo administration. Yet, the killings of activists continue under his watch,” Bayan national secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. said in a statement.
Bayan’s Reyes said they seriously doubt now the sincerity and resolve of the Aquino government in stopping once and for the extrajudicial killings and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“Only an organized armed group can carry out the assassination combined with a very refined intelligence and surveillance methods… and who else has the motive? Who else wants to silence activists and individuals crying out against injustices?” Arante said