PHILIPPINES: A political activist and his family were shot at while asleep in their home

On 7 January 2014, at 12:30 am, Elioforo Abrahan, his wife, Rita; and their two children were sleeping inside their hut when unidentified armed men shot at their house in Barangay Kinabalan, Malungon, Sarangani province. Elioforo and his family dropped to the ground for safety. The shooting lasted for about 20 seconds.
Elioforo is a farmer and vice chairperson of Bayan Muna Partylist (People First Party list) in their town.
After the shooting, they inspected the bullet holes in the walls of their house and found that it was about 6 inches away from where their heads would have been lying. They kept quiet and waited for about an hour. They first slowly moved towards the house of Salvador Bandola, a village leader in Sitio Bungaran, and later when they noticed that the armed men had already left the area, they quickly moved from the house to ask for help.
On 8 January 2014, 8am, Elioforo asked for help from Mario Deserto, the village chief. The village chief sent his village militia together with Elioforo to the place where the incident happened to investigate.
According to the village militia they found 26 empty shells similar to the calibers of M-14, Garand and carbine rifle. They also found footprints. In the afternoon they went back to the village hall and turned over the empty shell casings to the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Prior to the incident on 5 June 2011, agents from 73rd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army conducted a military operation in Sitio Bungaran, Barangay Kinabalan, Malungon, Sarangani province. At the same time they also conducted aerial bombings against the rebels.
Elioforo was accused by Tadtad, a militia group arming themselves with bladed weapons, of allegedly allowing a rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) to enter his house. Tadtad (a local language for chop chop) became notorious for the morbid acts of chopping the bodies of their victims they claimed to be rebels. They were forcing Elioforo to join their group and be a member for his ‘own protection’.
Elioforo’s neighbor said after the incident happen, he heard some of Tadtad to have said in a local language: “ilang putlon ang kahoy nga gitugpahan sa kabog” (they will cut a tree in which the bat landed).
In rural villages, farmers who refused to join armed militias who are under the direct control of the military are seen as supporters of the rebels and undermining the military’s counterinsurgency operations. Therefore, given the earlier allegation by this armed militia of Elioforo allegedly providing refuge for rebel groups, like in numerous similar cases in other places in the past, he and his family would predictably be targeted for attack.
Therefore, what Elioforo’s neighbour heard about “cutting a tree” where the “bats landed” should not be taken lightly. This kind of metaphor and rhetoric, which may seemed meaningless to others, implies a threat to a person’s life in rural villages.
The group Tadtad has a long history of being used as an armed militia by the military establishment in its fight against rebels. They usually arm themselves with bolos (knives) and amulets (or anting-anting) they believed could protect them. They were very active during the late 80s, during the presidency of the late President Corazon Aquino, the mother of the current president, as the military’s machinery in its fight against insurgency.
Though the government’s support of Tadtad has declined due to the atrocities this group has committed; however, the attack on Elioforo clearly demonstrates that the support this armed militias is getting was not severed and, in fact, it is continuing to be used by the military establishment that is tolerating their acts.