It is bad enough that her husband was brutally murdered allegedly by soldiers while tending his farm, and her efforts to seek justice for his killing resulted in harassments. She was forced to leave for Leyte, where her home was later destroyed by supertyphoon Yolanda.
By MARYA SALAMAT
TACLOBAN City, Leyte — Aida Magtolis Pajanustan, 44, hailed from San Miguel, Las Navas, Northern Samar. But less than two years since President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III took power and continued militarizing the countryside supposedly for peace, she was forced to leave her house and bring her five children to Leyte.
It is bad enough that her husband was brutally murdered allegedly by soldiers while tending his farm, and her efforts to seek justice for his killing resulted only in more harassments. She was forced to leave for Leyte, where her home was later destroyed by supertyphoon Yolanda.
A thin, small woman, her otherwise bright and cheery eyes turned teary as she recounted the biggest tragedy that befell her family. On Oct 25, 2011, her husband, Jovito Pajanustan, 47, a farmer of abaca and copra, which they sell at Las Navas town proper in Northern Samar, was found dead in their farm in a nearby village.
Their five children were all still studying at the time. The eldest was in grade 6.
Aida told Bulatlat.com that Jovito had been working with abaca at their farm that day. “He told me he would be back for lunch. But he didn’t. My kumpare said he heard him working.”
When the kumpare and a neighbor, Hayang Hagonoy, went home, the kumpare told Aida to go to her husband’s farm because he saw some soldiers there.
“When I got to the farm, my husband was no longer there. There were deep marks of boots on the ground. I asked the Barangay Captain in that village to help me look for my husband. He said to wait for other council members.”
By 4 p.m. that day of October, they again checked on the farm; Jovito was still not there.
That same afternoon Aida went for help to other village officials, this time from Barangay San Miguel, Las Navas, where they lived at the time. Her husband worked at their farm situated in another village.
It so happened that the village officials were having a meeting when Aida went to see them. They immediately went to the soldiers’ camp. A military captain denied seeing Jovito in his farm.
“The next day, we found Jovito dead at a freshly dug hole in the ground. He was stuck amid bamboos. With him were some coconut, his bolo and axe, his bag of tools, some ripe bananas.”
Aida said the village officials took her husband’s body. That was in Oct 28, three days since he went missing. Aida said Jovito’s head was covered in cellophane.
According to the autopsy, Jovito died from stab wounds.
“I paid P500 for the autopsy. His heart and neck were slashed. My husband died a grisly death. I cry whenever I remember him,” Aida said.
They held a wake for Jovito for just one night.
After that, soldiers pestered Aida to sign a statement clearing the military of responsibility for the murder of her husband. Because of this, she was soon forced to leave the village. She chose to leave than recant.
Now Aida lives in another village, in another province of Eastern Visayas. She is supporting her children by weeding farms, and by being a hired hand at harvesting.
Her youngest was just one year old when she was widowed and forced to flee Las Navas and the military. So much for winning their hearts and minds, her youngest who is four years old now tells her she will kill the government soldiers when she grows up.
Aida cannot say what has become of her home in Las Navas and their farm in the neighboring village, where her husband’s body was found. She fears for other farmers whom the soldiers might happen to encounter. She heard that the soldiers just happen to pass by her husband working in the farm when they started questioning him.
“Soldiers only question and accost civilians. When that happened to my husband, the people grew afraid of going to the farm by themselves. If they really have to go, they now go in groups.”
Already poor, further oppressed by militarization, negligence
When supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country, Aida’s house was destroyed as early as 5 a.m. They moved to their neighbor but their house also got destroyed.
“So we ran to an open field and stayed there with water up to our waist.”
She said they received relief goods three weeks later. It consisted of three kilos of rice, some Maggi noodles. She got help from World Vision for reconstructing their house.
As yet there was no case in court against the killers of farmer Jovito. There had been no investigation, Aida said. Still, she longs for justice for her husband and her family. She joined the conference of human rights victims held by People Surge in Tacloban City last month, hoping to get support so justice can be had for her husband Jovito.