ON SATURDAY, George and Macel Vigo were laid to rest in Kidapawan, North Cotabato after moving tributes by family and friends.The Vigos were development workers and community journalists. They were murdered not far from their home on June 19 by two men on board a motorcycle. They join the lengthening list of casualties in what appears to be a war against the Left and all those formerly or currently associated with it.

George and Macel were members of the militant League of Filipino Students in the 1980s. Like many other activists during that period, they moved out of hard-core Left politics to do development work, first becoming involved with social action projects of the Catholic Church before forming their own NGO, the People’s Kauhayan Foundation, which pioneered in building “zones of peace” in areas ravaged by conflict. These peace zones are communities where armed groups are not allowed and where citizens take active part in resolving conflicts.

Those who know the Vigos say that the couple were not involved with communist guerrillas. Their main concern was promoting dialogue and reconciliation in an area that had seen so much fighting. They tried to bring together different groups — Muslims, indigenous peoples, Christian settlers, anticommunist militias and former NPA guerrillas — that had traditionally been at odds with each other.

George and Macel also did some journalism, as reporters for a short-lived community weekly, the Headliner, and as founders of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE). George was correspondent for UCAN, the Catholic news agency at the time of his death, while Macel had a program on a local radio station. They also frequently acted as field producers for foreign broadcasters, including the British Broadcasting Corp. and the US-based Public Broadcasting Service’s documentary program, “Frontline.”

It is not clear why George and Macel were killed. The military blames the New People’s Army (NPA) for the murders. According to local reporters, the military has tried to get eyewitnesses to the murder to point to one Dionisio Madanggit, allegedly an NPA hitman, as the gunman. Its theory is that the George, a former communist, had upset the NPA by giving information to the military.

In his tribute to the Vigos, Fr. Peter Geremia, an Italian priest who has been based in Kidapawan for decades and who was the couple’s spiritual adviser, also recounted that “official investigators deceived Macel’s mother into signing a statement that attributed the killing” to the NPA. “They accused George and Macel of supporting the NPA, then blame the rebels for their killing.”

I first met Fr. Peter in 1985, as a young journalist investigating the gruesome murder of the Italian priest Tulio Favali by anticommunist militiamen led by the infamous Manero brothers. These militiamen, or vigilantes, as they were called then, were engaged in, among other things, cannibalistic rituals.

At that time, Fr. Peter was himself accused of being a communist because he had protested against military abuses. He was the real target of the killers, who gunned down Fr. Tulio in his stead. (I remember interviewing the military regional commander, who told me, “It’s not so difficult to muster enough bravado now to kill a priest. The problem is they no longer wear habits like they used to in the old days.”)
I have been to the places where George and Macel did their peace work and know that fear, hate and suspicion are deeply rooted there.

“Here, killing is an amost daily occurence,” I wrote then of the town in Tulunan, where Favali’s murder took place and where George and Macel helped build a zone of peace. “A visitor wonders why no funeral parlor has set up shop here, why mutilated corpses must still be driven several kilometers to the funeraria in the next town of Mlang.”

That was 21 years ago. After the fall of Marcos and negotiations with the communists and Muslim insurgents, Tulunan experienced a respite from the killings. Local efforts, like those undertaken by the Vigos, helped extend the peace. But war would soon be all around.

The all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 brought fresh fighting to the area, sending thousands of refugees streaming into the towns bordering North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao. The Vigos continued to be the voice of peace. Among other things, they organized the Kids for Peace, bringing children, including their own, to talk about their hopes for an end to the fighting.

They also helped form Kalampag or Kotobatenyos for Good Government, composed of civic and church groups, which, according to Fr. Peter, was set up to “promote a style of leadership respectful of all our people and to heal the wounds of the victims of abuse.”

“We wonder,” asks Fr. Peter, “if they became targets because of their participation in Kalampag or because of all their community involvements. They were considered moderate activists, journalists working within the system — young professionals who cared deeply for their family and community values.”

Fr. Peter recalled seeing them shortly before they were killed. “They didn’t envision a violent death on that day,” he wrote in his tribute to the Vigos. “They didn’t even mention threats or issues. They focused on their own personal and family concerns. It was a sort of renewal of their personal relationship and their deepest commitments. After our long sharing, they walked away holding hands like young lovers. They looked as if that was the happiest moments of their life, a peak experience. They poured out so much affection that I was amazed. As they rode home, they were shot down like birds flying in the sky.”

Orlando de Guzman, a BBC reporter now based in Indonesia, has this to say about the Vigos, who were both in their late 30s:

“They were never afraid to speak the truth, even though they were clearly aware of the dangers they faced. I took comfort in the idea that they were perhaps invincible. They were activists as much as they were journalists. Their concern for the people around them led them not just to write stories, but also be deeply involved in the struggle for justice and peace in their war-torn community. George and Macel were true heroes for me.”

It would seem, from the testimonies of those who knew the Vigos, that they were the sort of citizens this country needs badly. They were socially committed individuals who tried to do what they could, in a place that had been so wounded and so riven by ideological, religious and class conflict. We need people like these alive, not dead.

On June 23, Kidapawan Bishop Romulo Valles saluted the Vigo couple and their commitment to peace:

“A commitment never to accept violence as inevitable or unstoppable. A commitment to overcome the apathy and fear that weigh down our best intentions. A commitment to do unceasingly the works of peace: to meet with all men and women of good will, to dialogue, to mutually forgive each other our trespasses and failures, to strive to build community of respect for each other, a community of genuine peace.”

[Orlando De Guzman has set up a blog to honor George and Macel and to keep track of the ongoing investigation of their murders. He has also set up a fund to help the couple’s four children. Click here for details.]

21 Responses to When will the killings stop?

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johnmarzan

July 3rd, 2006 at 7:59 pm

When will the killings stop?

“Until all the Lefties and Commies are wiped off the map.”
— Gen. Palparan.

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Ambuot Saimo

July 3rd, 2006 at 10:52 pm

Gloria solved in matter of seconds the problem of classroom shortage (as per Sec. Hidalgo) by “mathematical genius” of making a 100:1 instead of 35:1 student-classroom ratio. This admistration is very smart. Now Gen. Palparan vowed to eradicate insurgency in two years. I think I know their Plan:

1st year- attempt to kill all commies & lefties. If it will not work…
2nd Year- (last two minutes) Issue Executive Order appointing all NPA, MNLF,
MILF, etc. members as policemen and soldiers of the Republic.

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ryebosco

July 3rd, 2006 at 11:48 pm

When will the killing stop?

As soon as the masterminds and killers themselves are KILLED. As soon as the corrupt are punished and put to death.
As soon as we elect quality leaders.
As soon as jobs are generated.
As soon as education stops deteriorating.
As soon as population is controlled.

Kamay sa dib-deeeb. Sino ang mastermind ng pag-patay kay Ninoy?

Neneng anong sagot mo?

“Unsolved po.”

ME TAMA KA.

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Rizalist

July 4th, 2006 at 7:46 am

Other than the fact that they were involved with the LFS in the 1980s, there doesn’t seem to be much of a Leftist connection here. Testimony is even referred to, that they were not involved with Communist guerillas. But the clear suggestion is being made that the govt or military killed them.

Is this justified by the facts as we know them? Is it at all possible that it is the communists who killed them, and didn’t like the fact that they weren’t working with the communists.

No one deserves to be murdered, not even communists. But neither does the plain simple investigative truth. Do you know what that truth really is?

We know that at least SOME of this spate of killings were done by the Left because Joma can’t stand competition, especially ideological competition about how victory is to be won. We also know the govt is capable of extra judicial killings.

Which kind was this?

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Rizalist

July 4th, 2006 at 7:48 am

OH…and please remember Plaza Miranda!

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naykika

July 4th, 2006 at 9:57 am

Every killing we are witnessing now is getting bolder and bolder. And the Question of when the killings stop seems to be unanswerable at the moment. First, nobody for sure, not the Police Authorities, not the any government agency, knows what is going on, Except the Killers and whoever orders them or pays them to do the bidding.

Meanwhile the families and children of the latest victims, couple George and Macel may need our help in whatever form we can offer:

Here’s an email address of Mr. Orlando de Guzman, a friend of the Family who is leading the fundraising for the Children of the couple:

email@orlandodeguzman.com

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Juan Makabayan

July 4th, 2006 at 11:01 am

It is not right to say Leftists are being killed by Rightists nor to say by Leftists themselves when the issue is that the killings per se are unjust. The issue is the worsening culture of injustice and impunity. GMA cannot escape answerability and accountability as president and commander in chief. No leader lacking in moral authority can manage a crisis. GMA’s holding on to power will lead to a widening spread of lawlessness and criminality, to draconian measures and an inevitable overall socio-economic-political breakdown. GMA wants to stay, to hell with her critics, crisis is part of life, blame it on the destabilizers & opposition, NPA & communists, the nosy Bishops and pesky priests and human rights activists; blame it on choosy job-seekers, complaining consumers, the meddling media & pesky press; blame everyone else but not Gloria, “anyway you cannot kick me out, so just shut up and let me do my thing”. On with the killings …

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stoxbnx3

July 4th, 2006 at 11:06 am

i wish i were a class 5 mutant so i could finish off the three demons behind all these. i’d make damn sure that they suffer.

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jojo

July 4th, 2006 at 11:14 am

Although I wrote for UCA News for five or six years, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet George due to the distance of our respective areas of coverage. The bureau chief in China often had to toe the line with regard to reportage and Beijing’s sensitivities but the news agency didn’t have a writer shot dead in the communist state.

The pain is much harder to bear when the killings are closer to home, amid our utopian democratic ideals.

The rage too is seething – for the official spins blaming the leftwing movement for the couple’s killings. For this, state security agencies are either immensely dense or deliberately Orwellian. The police also apparently wants to pin the blame on communist rebels for the burning of a community radio station in Cagayan province.

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mowa

July 4th, 2006 at 2:16 pm

mawawalan ng negosyo ang mga parlor pag binigla nyo ang killing …ahihihi

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johnmarzan

July 4th, 2006 at 4:15 pm

Other than the fact that they were involved with the LFS in the 1980s, there doesn’t seem to be much of a Leftist connection here. Testimony is even referred to, that they were not involved with Communist guerillas. But the clear suggestion is being made that the govt or military killed them.

Is this justified by the facts as we know them? Is it at all possible that it is the communists who killed them, and didn’t like the fact that they weren’t working with the communists.

No one deserves to be murdered, not even communists. But neither does the plain simple investigative truth. Do you know what that truth really is?

We know that at least SOME of this spate of killings were done by the Left because Joma can’t stand competition, especially ideological competition about how victory is to be won. We also know the govt is capable of extra judicial killings.

Which kind was this?

I think Arroyo and Palparan’s “War against the Left” may have something to do with it, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

OH…and please remember Plaza Miranda!

of course, but also remember some of the tactics used by Marcos.

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mint julep

July 4th, 2006 at 7:50 pm

Rizalist, you wrote that: “We know that at least SOME of this spate of killings were done by the Left because Joma can’t stand competition, especially ideological competition about how victory is to be won.”

Pray, which cases in this spate of killings are you claiming were perpetrated by the Left because – as you say – “Joma can’t stand competition”?

That is precisely the line of the PDSP’s Norberto Gonzalez and General Palparan. According to them, the Communists are behind the nearly 700 extra-judicial killings and disappearances of members of party-list groups, labor leaders, peasants, church people, student activists, journalists, and human rights lawyers during the Arroyo regime.

However, aren’t these victims the very same people who Gonzalez, Palparan, etc. are branding as Enemies of the State, Communists, Leftists, or sympathizers?

Yes, even George and Macel Vigo were maliciously labeled as “supporters” of the NPA, according to Fr. Peter Geremia. If you read the article carefully, you’d notice how Fr. Geremia said that “official investigators deceived Macel’s mother into signing a statement that attributed the killing” to the NPA. “They accused George and Macel of supporting the NPA, then blame the rebels for their killing.”

So let’s not fall for the stories peddled by Gonzalez and Palparan who conveniently use the ol’ Communist Bogey to divert attention from the government’s role in these human rights violations.

Study the reports of the human rights groups and the CHR who have interviewed survivors, witnesses, and the families of victims and point to the military, police, or government-backed death squads as the perpetrators.

If these reports aren’t enough, let’s support a fully independent and credible body composed of Church leaders, a representative of the IBP, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, and representatives of human rights groups to investigate these killings, as proposed by some members of Congress.

How many more must die before the Filipino people denounce and put an end to the bloody campaign of the Arroyo administration to silence all dissenters and critics?!

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jr_lad

July 4th, 2006 at 10:02 pm

i have not heard of community workers being killed by the left just because they have different idealogues or are competitors. suspected govt informers maybe. but ngo’s and other groups who are there to serve the people are never at risk of being harmed by the left. mukhang sala ata ang sinasabi ni rizalist. there are lots of groups working w/ the poor and they are very much aware that the one with the strong motive to harm them is only the military. every group knows about this and they always fear for their safety specialy if they are branded as communist symphatizers. even priests despise the military specialy palparan. that’s a known fact.

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freewheel

July 4th, 2006 at 10:28 pm

There is no dearth of trigger-happy maniacs in a country where human life cost roughly to that of ‘balut’ or about 10 pesos.

There is an abundance of advisers, strategists, political operators plying their business, selling their expertise to a government, all too willing, whose primary order of business is to survive–at any cost, human or monetary.

There is a fertile environment for government-sponsored mayhem, senseless and wanton violence against citizens critical of existing order due to, in great part, self-styled intellectuals absurd condonations of these killings, and preoccupation of finding the ‘correct’ world-view; views that does NOT belong in this part of the world but in the world of the VOID.

When will the killings stop?

It wont, and will never end until apologists, ‘civil society’ groups; LEARN to live in a society tolerant of views not to their liking or different from theirs;

Not until, a human life is considered priceless;

Not until, self-styled Pinoy intellectuals start to deviate from long-debunked ideas of Henry Kissinger, Joseph Macarthy, anti-Communist League, et al and develop strong alternatives based on age-old adage: “… even a fool, too, should have a place under the sun”.

Only then, the start of a new era begins…

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tongue in, anew

July 5th, 2006 at 2:41 am

Equally saddening is the disappearance of UP studes – Sherlyn Cadapan, from the College of Human Kinetics, was a multi-awarded triathlete who did volunteer work for farmers and their communities; Karen Empeño, a Sociology major from the College of Social Sciences, was doing research on farmers when they and one more LFS member, Manuel Merino, were abducted by hooded armed men in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

It’s been more than a week since the abduction, and no signs of them yet.

A few months back, a group of teenaged mountaineers were arrested and detained by soldiers on suspicion that they were part of a band who raided a police station somewhere in the Mountain Region.

What does government, at least the armed units, hope to achieve by firewalling the peasants from the youth? Do they think that the gov’t is doing enough already so the kids have no business helping the farmers? I think they haven’t recovered from the bad hangover left by the Martial Law generals whose retardation has impeded their ability grasp the social dynamics of activism three decades since.

The military mind has stagnated so much that it cannot see beyond red. Palparan and his soldiers, as are other generals elsewhere, are convinced that provincianos who are spotted in a rally in Liwasang Bonifacio or Mabuhay Rotonda are all communist rebels therefore deserve to be wasted. This explains why soldiers who raid houses in Central Luzon carry tapes or discs of rallies and by their techniques of “persuasion” the helpless farmers are forced either to admit or to point their friends locations.

Hell, even jeepney drivers who rallied against oil prices are now enemies of the state.

You do not decimate rebels this way. This will only produce more of them. For every activist killed, a whole family becomes sympathizers. For every sympathizer killed, a whole family becomes rebels.

Don’t buy the delusion that CPP/NPA will be history in two years.

Whatever Gloria says is always the opposite of the truth. She, dear soldiers of the people, is the real enemy.

So when will the killing stop? I don’t know when it will, but I sure do know whom to start with.

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Juan Makabayan

July 5th, 2006 at 1:18 pm

tongue in,

I’m having goose bumps while reading your post, the names of young, so young students who are missing … I know how easy it is for them to pick up students … some of my batchmates were picked up …

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mindanaw

July 5th, 2006 at 11:18 pm

Unfortunately, the killings won’t stop until justice is served to the last victims and the victims that came before them.

We can look up to the sky and ask if there is a chance that would happen. Sad. Depressing. It won’t for now. BUT may we not give in to the thought of giving up.

When will the killings stop? Maybe, when, is not the biggest question.

How to stop who from killing? …why are the killings happening? Why some cowards still could get through with messages like killing anyone?

Life has been turned into a wild pig chase in the wilderness. Its gruesome. The obra speaks much about the obrero.

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johnmarzan

July 6th, 2006 at 4:45 pm

However, aren’t these victims the very same people who Gonzalez, Palparan, etc. are branding as Enemies of the State

“ENEMIES OF THE STATE” with links to communism? aba, hindi ba kasama diyan ang pcij, NUJP at CBCP?

http://www.google.com/search?num=20&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&scoring=d&q=%22enemies+of+the+state%22+PCIJ+NUJP+CBCP&btnmeta%3Dsearch%3Dsearch=Search+the+Web

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jester-in-exile

July 6th, 2006 at 5:17 pm

when will the killings stop?

either when honor, justice, and courage become words to live by in this country or after the democratic people’s republic of korea uses the philippines for nuke target practice.

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freewheel

July 7th, 2006 at 10:14 pm

this general named Palparan is not the first, and his kind surely will be not the last-unless the question: what breeds his kind?, is addressed squarely;

i imagine the following to happen if he is made to speak before a corps of intelligence services covering different nations on the theme, ” how to spot a Commie, a Leftist : and how to deal with it ” ;

the local isafp, is expected to render him a standing ovation, and loud clapping of hands;

the cia representative, will probably clap too, meekly, and involuntarily shake his head;

the british MI5 agent, would blush crimson red, not with pride, but with shame;

germany’s bundeswehr delegate is expected to jeer and show him the door;

DST snoopers of france, slams the door on his face; and the Mossad spy, quickly jumps to his feet and check whether the door’s bolt is in place. He is expected to file a report, recommending never to allow the general near a kibbutz.

Farfecthed idea or crazy evaluation, you think?

the cold war is over, gentlemen. the world is now faced with different thrusts, mainly, on how to strike a working balance in face with diversity of ideas among the peoples.

the easy option of killing or eliminating a percieved enemy, is the way of the lazy and lacking of imagination.

the couple, George and Macel, were working for peace. Pinas, our country, needs badly the likes of them instead of seeing them mowed to death.

wanted dearly, are the peacemakers not the warmongers.

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tongue in, anew

July 9th, 2006 at 2:29 am

Sorry, Juan M. for this late reply. The last one I typed last week returned an error message and the whole comment (a long one of about 15 paragraphs) was lost to blog purgatory. I’ve forgotten what I wrote there.

Anyways, there’s really no sense in killing non-combatants who are plain civilians who chose to be just more proactive in listening to the peasants’ woes and organizing them into a substantial voting block so that the politician-leaders will give them serious attention. Okay, let’s say organizing pressure groups to attend rallies relevant to their advocacies. At worst, let’s say they’re recruiting members for Bayan Muna. KMP, Akbayan, Gabriela or the other radical left-wing progressive orgs. That does not mean you can harass, abduct, or shoot them, does it?

For all I care, if you have solid proof that they are armed rebels go shoot them. If you see these kids during an armed skirmish, by all means, fire at will.

Look at these 2 young ladies. They are volunteer workers looking after the plight of farmers in their locality, surely any local gov’t would want to have more of them in their AORs. What do they get in return? Especially Empeño whose career involves a lot of touching bases with farm folks would suddenly find out that she won’t be able to practice what she learned in UP just because one Gen. Palparan does not want her to. My nephews tell me intelligence operatives are have been scanning student records in UP looking for more Empeños and Cadapans in the rolls. Not even during the height of Marcos’ dictatorship were soldiers ordered inside the campus.

Gov. Dela Cruz of Bulacan has identified Palparan’s men as those behind the recent raids and abductions and killings in her province, but no one heeded her, except Palparan himself who has since labeled the governor as a communist-coddler.

I understand your getting unsettled from reports such as these young kids’ disappearance. Pretty soon, when the two-year deadline imposed by Gloria comes closer, you’d probably get camel humps instead of goose bumps.

Twice over when the PNP gets its own P1 Billion to join the AFP in its murderous assault.

Now, we see why Jamby is getting all these flak for talking with the “enemies”, well, even social workers are now prohibited from talking with farmers.

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