Romeo Malabanan was the former chairperson of the Laguna-wide peasant organization PUMALAG (Pagkakaisa ng Magsasaka sa Laguna). Since the establishment of Bayan Muna party, he had been an active member of Bayan Muna.
Mr. Malabanan suffered a stroke in 2000 and the right side of his body was paralyzed. After a 6-month treatment, he learned to walk and write with his left hand. He has never fully recovered from his stroke; he has been limping and writing in his left hand until his death. Nevertheless, in order to have his 4 children go to school, Malabanan, adamant about working, served as a technical assistant in the municipal office in Bay, Laguna.
Mr. Malabanan continued his advocacy work despite of his frail heath. As Secretary General of Bayan Muna, he campaigned for the party in the Bay town, helping the party to receive the largest votes in Laguna during the 2001 elections. In 2001, the military established a camp in Barangay Tranca, Bay. The purpose of the
camp was to maintain a military presence in the area. Malabanan protested the establishment of this camp because a military camp already existed in Barangay Bitin, one village away.
Malabanan felt there were too many soldiers in one place and too much of a military presence. Along with the Mayor and NGO groups, Malabanan participated in a dialogue with the military to discuss the setting up of a camp. In addition to this dialogue, he brought up his concerns with the governor of the province. The town of Tranca did not hold a rally; however, there was a rally in the capital city which, Malabanan and his wife joined. His wife believes that these activities (the dialogue and participation in a rally)
caused him to become a target of the military.
Circumstances of the Killing
On December 23, Malabanan woke up at 5 a.m. in order to prepare for a trip to the provincial capital of Santa Cruz in Laguna. He went there to distribute Christmas gifts for the poor which were arranged by the governor’s office. Malabanan returned from the capital between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. After his return, his wife began their daily routine of preparing his food and helping him bathe and dress. After getting dressed, Malabanan waited outside to catch a tricycle to his next appointment.
While crying, Mrs. Malabanan told HRN,
“Usually I waited for a tricycle with him in front of our house, but on this day, I went back to 51the house. That was the first time I ever left him wait for a tricycle alone. As I went back to the house, I heard something exploded. But I thought, it was just firecrackers exploding, because it was the Christmas season. I realized my husband was shot when my twin shouted out that their father was shot. I ran back in front of the house and found my husband lying in his own blood. My son was outside and witnessed the killing. He saw the perpetrator shoot his father in the face at point blank range. He then rushed to his father and as the
perpetrator aimed to shoot again, he embraced his father. The perpetrator did not shoot again. He was very shocked…”
Their son was able to give a sketch description of the perpetrator. In addition to their son, Mrs. Malabanan’s sister-in-law saw the gunman in the area prior to the shooting. She gave a description that was similar to the son’s description. The perpetrator was described as a short man with short hair, but it is not known if he was with the military.
There were three police man in a patrol car about 25 meters away from where the shooting happened, but they did not apprehend the gunman. The police said they were unable to catch him despite the fact that he fled on foot. The police told Mrs. Malabanan that they were unable to shoot the suspect because the gun jammed.
The police came to Mrs. Malabanan’s home the night of the killing to get a sketch of the gunman, but since that time they have not contacted her concerning the status of the case. However, soldiers from Tranca have contacted Mrs. Malabanan on at least three separate occasions. Every time, the military asked if any investigation has been done and offered help. However, she has not received any. Less than a year after the killing of Mr. Malabanan, the military camp was removed; however, a reason was not provided.
Comments by the Family Member
Mrs. Malabanan believes the military was involved in her husband’s killing: “It was planned. Why were there three policemen at the time of the killing yet they did not catch the perpetrators? It happened in broad daylight. They let the gunman free to escape.” “I hope you and those who visited us will help my husband and other victims of political killings obtain justice. I hope you will pave the way to seek justice for all victims, even if it takes a long time to achieve justice.”