Police and soldiers kill surrenderee who refused to betray his family
When the 31st IB coerced Michael Bagasala to surrender in 2018, the military proclaimed that he may finally be able to live in peace. He had left the New People’s Army (NPA) a year earlier to return to civilian life.
But on January 24 shortly after noon, police elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group shot and killed Bagasala outside his home in Barangay San Antonio, Barcelona, Sorsogon. Residents said that the police were reinforced by the 31st IB, disproving the battalion commander’s claim that the police operation was not coordinated with them.
After the murder, the police immediately dished out the “nanlaban” storyline. But witnesses in the NPA-Sorsogon’s investigation refuted this. Bagasala, they recounted, was killed after being tortured for not confessing the whereabouts of his family and relatives. The fascists have long been hunting down the Bagasala family, added Samuel Guerrero, spokesperson of the NPA provincial command.
In the case of Bagasala, the 31st IB’s promise of peace means cooperating with the military and betraying families and neighbors. In refusing to do so, Bagasala fell prey to the thirst for blood of Duterte’s unforgiving minions, said Guerrero.
Or it was peace after all, but that of the dead. Because even in Bagasala’s two years of living as a “surrenderee,” abuses of the 31st IB continued to hound him and his family. In June 2019, his mother Nelly, a staunch human rights defender in the province, was shot and killed together with a fellow activist. Later in November, a neighbor was also killed for being an activist farmer. For months, the 31st IB would come and go to make life difficult for residents of San Antonio and its neighboring villages, forcing them to surrender as NPA members and supporters.
Guerrero said that on the day Bagasala was killed, the 31st IB had been in San Antonio for almost two weeks and had set up a command post for its combat operations in neighboring villages.
Bagasala’s case, added Guerrero, is proof that the state itself endangers the lives of “surrenderees.” In earlier statements, Guerrero revealed that “surrenderees” in the province are listed as ghost employees of local government units or are assigned to operate antisocial money-making schemes. Their main task, however, is to do the dirty job of spying, harassing, and killing legal activists and those branded by the military as supporters of the revolutionary movement.