Task Force formed to reinvestigate killing of Sumilao farmer-leader

MALAYBALAY CITY – A nine-member multi-sectoral task force was formed in time for the second death anniversary of  Sumilao farmer-leader Renato “Ka Rene” Peñas, said Napoleon Merida, Jr., chair of the Panaw Sumilao Multipurpose Cooperative.

Merida said Peñas’ family and supporters decided to create the task force because the Sumilao station of the Philippine National Police did not conduct a reinvestigation even if provincial prosecutor Mirabeaus Undalok, now a Regional Trial Court judge in Gingoog City, ordered a reinvestigation of the incident after the court dismissed the case against Alipio Tumangday, one of three suspects.

Undalok moved for the dismissal of the case against Tumangday when Samson Dollete, one of the survivors of the attack identified him in an affidavit as one of the suspects. But Dollete executed another affidavit retracting his previous statements.

Dollete retracted “due to serious threat and intimidation,” the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama)-Palambu and Balaod Mindanaw alleged in a statement dated June 9.

Merida said sectors/ parties represented in the Task Force include Panaw Sumilao, MAPALAD and San Vicente Landless Farmers Association, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)-PALAMBU, Balaod Mindanaw, PNP Sumilao, Christ the King Parish of the Diocese of Malaybalay, and the Penas family.

He said their main task is to ensure that the authorities will conduct a reinvestigation on the case including old witnesses like Dollete and suspect Tumangday. He said they are also responsible to find new witness.

Merida said local police said absence of new witness and allegedly an authorization from superiors to reinvestigate the case were among reasons why no reinvestigation was held.

Two years after his death, justice has remained elusive for a farmer-leader in Sumilao, Bukidnon who helped organized a march from the province to Manila to dramatize their quest for land under the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Renato “Ka Rene” Peñas and two companions were ambushed in Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao midnight on June 5, 2009. His companions survived the attack which took place some 200 meters away from the house of Alipio Tumangday, one of three suspects.

But the Pakisama and Balaod Mindanaw statement said the police have not made a reinvestigation.
A fact finding mission led by Balaod Mindanaw in July 2009 recommended that a full-blown multi-agency investigation be conducted “in order to explore other possible angles and motives for the killing.”

The mission also pushed for then PNP Director General Jesus Versoza to “investigate the Sumilao and Bukidnon police, particularly those involved in the Rene Peñas case, and order their immediate relief and replacement, as necessary, to ensure impartiality and the adequate protection of the community.” It further asked the NBI to “effectively protect all vital informants
and witnesses”.

Meanwhile, two other suspects have remained at large. Penas’ belonged to a group called the Mapalad farmers which demanded the full redistribution of 94 hectares of the 114-hectare Quisumbing estate in San Vicente, Sumilao. The farmers staged a grueling Sumilao to Manila march in 2007 to press their demand.

In 2009, Penas’ family called for a deeper investigation of the case even if the police were zeroing in on Tumangday and his alleged accomplices. (Walter I. Balane)

Find this story also in: www.mindanews.com

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