On June 14, 2010 at around 4.30 pm, Mr. Benjamin E. Bayle was shot dead by two men, who approached him wearing helmets in a motorcycle with no license plate, when he was waiting for a ride at the crossing Sitio Antolo, Brgy. Suay.
The back rider disembarked and shot him several times at about three metres distance. When the victim fell down, the rider also came near and shot him as to make sure he was dead. The perpetrators left the scene on board the motorcycle.
The Himamaylan City Philippine National Police (PNP), alerted by a government employee who witnessed the shooting, arrived on the spot and then contacted the nearby Kabankalan City PNP police station, which set up a check point in Kabankalan, close to Himamaylan city on the southbound. Two individuals, who were carrying two 45 calibre pistols and identified as Messrs. Roger M. Bahon and Ronnie L. Caurino, were later apprehended and sent to the Himamaylan City Jail, where they remain detained and have been charged with “murder”.
The same day, Kabankalan police officers made a statement on the radio were they claimed that the two suspects had confessed to be regular members of the 61st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army. However, the Himamaylan PNP retracted from this initial statement the next day.
Mr. Bayles had been reportedly subject of surveillance by the military since May 2010. In the run-up to the May presidential, legislative and local elections for instance, a team of the 11th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army reportedly encamped in the Barangay Centre, the headquarters of the council and the local peacekeeping officers, and looked for him, asking for his whereabouts. The soldiers had also accused him of working for the alleged front organisations of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that Mr. Bayles often accompanied Mr. Fred Cañas, KARAPATAN Secretary General for Negros, to fact-finding missions of human rights violations and it is therefore feared that Mr. Fred Cañas might be in turn threatened. Mr. Cañas already received threats in the past and is often “visited” by soldiers at his house.
As a member of the September 21 Movement, Mr. Benjamin Bayles had been denouncing abuses committed by the officers and men of the Philippine Army against the upland farmers and farm workers, and had helped families of the victims to seek the legal services offered by this movement and KARAPATAN. He had joined fact-finding missions and quick reaction teams sent to investigate human rights violations in the interior neighbourhoods of the Himamaylan City. He was also District Coordinator of the Aglipayan Forum, and as such he was active in anti-mining campaigns and in advocating for peasant’s rights.