Justice for Brother Benjamin Bayles

Benjamin Bayles was a lay minister in the Parish of San Ramon Nonato, and as a committed church worker, he was a District Chairman of the Aglipayan Forum, the Church’s advocacy group, in the Diocese of Negros Occidental. He was an active member of the human rights organization September 21 Movement, and the peasant organization National Federation of Sugar Workers, and also a member of Bayan Muna Partylist. His involvement with the marginalized sector and peasants and workers organizations has earned him the ire of the military who tagged him as a member of the New People’s Army.

On June 14, while waiting for a ride in Himamaylan City, Bayles was attacked by two men wearing helmets on board a black motorcycle. He was shot several times, and when he fell to the ground, the gunmen continue to shoot at him to ensure that he was dead. He was brought to the hospital by was pronounced dead-on-arrival. He had received numerous threats to his life prior to his killing.

What makes his case special is the fact that his attackers were apprehended while fleeing from the crime scene, and after months of denial and use of fictitious names, were finally admitted by the Department of National Defense to be active military men of the Philippine Army. Special because the potential conviction of the perpetrators will further confirm the investigation findings of United Nations Special Rapporteur Phillip Alston on the involvement of the government’s armed forces in the killings and disappearances of political activists in the country.

The conviction and punishment of the military killers of Bayles will point to the direct accountability of the military hierarchy on the spate of killings. If realized, the punishment of Bayles killers will seriously contribute in the changing of the government’s security policy, open the avenue towards the punishment of the perpetrators of the thousands of human rights victims, give justice to the victims and their families, and hugely contribute in the ending of the prevailing culture of impunity.

Case Study and Update by Attorney Ben Ramos