Witnesses said the killers forced Willem Geertman to his knees and shouted invectives at him before pulling the trigger.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — It was not a robbery but a cold-blooded political killing. Dutch development worker Willem Geertman’s killing was politically-motivated.
This was the initial finding of a fact-finding mission led by the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) one day after Geertman was shot to death in L&S subdivision, Sto. Domingo, Angeles City, Pampanga.
According to the PCPR, early noon on July 3, 2012, Geertman had just finished financial transactions at Metrobank and returned to his office when two men shot and killed him. Based on initial findings, one of the men collared Geertman and then forced him down on his knees. As he knelt on the pavement, witnesses said, the two men proceeded to shout invectives at him. Geertman was heard pleading for his life, but one of the men pulled out a gun and shot him on the right shoulder. The bullet entered his chest, almost killing him instantly.
Geertman began his work in the Philippines as a Dutch lay missionary and eventually became the executive director of Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI). He was a staunch advocate of peasant rights and also actively campaigned for the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly members of the Agta people in Sierra Madre. He led education and advocacy activities in disaster preparedness and relief.
He was also a passionate supporter of the struggle of the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and their just claim to the land. Through ABI, he gave his continuing support to the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the alliance directly working with the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).
Kakai Tolention of Katribu Party-list said Geertman was a man who gave his all to the cause of Filipino farmers and indigenous peoples.
“He was tireless and selfless; he devoted his life to helping the poor. He used his intelligence, skills, good will and sincerity to help Agta people become literate. He helped them in their struggle for self-determination. His life has been taken away by monsters of this human-rights violating government, but he will always live on in the hearts and minds of the people he helped. He gave so much to the the Filipino people in general, and the indigenous peoples and farmers of Central Luzon in particular,” she said.
Sr. Emma Cupin of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) also attested to Geertman’s innate kindness.?
“He was a good man, he gave his heart and soul to his work to help the farmers in Infanta, Quezon where he started his work as a missionary. He was the soul of kindness, we are mourning his death and rage against those who had him killed,” she said.
Witnesses give their account
According to a report in the Philippine Star, Geertman was with three members of ABI when he was killed. His killing was also witnessed by Fred Villareal, vice-chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Pampanga at the time he was killed. Villareal said the killers also pointed their guns at him when he attempted to go after them. The gunmen got on a motorcycle after shooting Geertman.
In the Philippine Star report, Villareal was also quoted as saying that he saw Geertman and the three staff arrive at the office that afternoon. He said that he had just emailed his story when he saw the suspects mandhandle Geertman and then forcing him on his knees.He also said the suspects wore baseball caps and jackets, but their faces were not covered.
Initial reports that have come out in the mainstream media are pointing toward robbery as the motive for the killing, but the PCPR and human rights groups Karapatan and Hustisya, and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) insist that the killing was politically-motivated.
In an indignation rally held in front of the headquarters of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), Selda secretary-general and former political prisoner Angie Ipong said there was no doubt that Geertman was killed because of his advocacies.
“This isn’t the first time that a political extrajudicial killing was made to appear as a common act of crime. Willem was already a victim of the vilification campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) because he actively supported the fight of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. His killers and the mastermind want it to look like a robbery because the money Willem withdrew from the bank was stolen, but the conduct of the killers betrayed their true motives,” Ipong said.
Ipong said the fact that his killers shouted and cursed at him before shooting him is already an indication that it was not an ordinary robbery.
“If it was just robbery, the killers could have just taken the money. Willem would have known better than to resist. But no, they had to force him to his knees before shooting him. Witnesses are also of the opinion that the killers took the money only as an afterthought: they didn’t act like taking it was the main goal. Killing Willem was their true reason for going there,” she said.
Same culture of impunity under Aquino
Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo, in the meantime, said the Benigno Aquino III administration should take responsibility for Geertman’s cold-blooded murder.
“I had previously spoken to Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita ‘Ding’ Deles. She said that the gross human rights violations that were committed under the previous Macapagal-Arroyo regime would never happen under Aquino. She said that Aquino is a man of dignity and morality, and that the fact that he was also a human rights victim on account of his father’s assassination was already a guarantee that he would not permit human rights violations to be committed under his watch. But now, two years after he came to power, here are these human rights violations, here is a foreign development worker who did nothing but help Filipinos killed in cold blood,” she said.
Araullo said the argument that Aquino was morally-upright ensured that he will not allow human rights violations happen was faulty and empty.
“This has nothing to do with Aquino and his supposed morality. The same system remains in place where political dissent is a crime; where those who are courageous in standing against anti-people, anti-poor policies and programs of the government and against the abuses of the military are silenced and killed,” she said. “The same culture of impunity remains, and in so many ways the situation is even worse: many still delude themselves that Aquino, being not-as-intelligent, not-as-skilled as his predecessor, is incapable of doing great evil against the people. This is a very dangerous assumption to make, and we must do all that we can to expose this.”
Araullo made note that two days before Geertman was killed, another peasant advocate also fell victim to extrajudicial killing.
Romualdo Palispis, chair of Justice and Peace Action Group of Aurora (JPAG) and head of Task Force Huwag Hatiin ang Bayan ng Maria Aurora (Do Not Divide Maria Aurora), was shot dead evening of June 30 in his house in the town of Maria Aurora. According to reports, he was actively opposing proposals to reduce the land coverage of Maria Aurora to create another municipality out of it.
PCPR secretary-general Nardy Sabino, for his part, appealed to the government of the Netherlands to press Philippine authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigations into Geertman’s killing.