By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA — A human rights group assailed the possible promotion of a ranking police officer that spearheaded an operation that led to the killing of nine indigenous peoples in Panay back in 2020.
In a statement, Panay Alliance Karapatan expressed alarm that police colonel Gervacio Balmaceda, former head of the regional unit of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, was included in the shortlist of nominees for appointment as Director of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.
Balmaceda was the commanding officer of the CIDG operatives that spearheaded Oplan Paglalansag Omega. This resulted in the killing of nine Tumandok leaders and the arrest of 16 others on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
He was also the commanding officer of a police operation that led to the arrest of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Panay Secretary-General Elmer Forro on March 29, 2022.
Panay Alliance Karapatan noted that the CIDG-6 was also behind the crackdown in Negros Occidental back in 2019, which resulted in the dozens of activists and peasant leaders being arrested during simultaneous raids.
“Even considering Balmaceda for the post is disconcerting and an affront to justice and to the numerous victims of human rights violations committed by CIDG-6 under his command,” said Panay Alliance Karapatan.
The group added that members of the Tumandok community are still suffering from the trauma. They are also displaced from their ancestral domains due to militarization and continue to be subjected to harassment as they oppose the ongoing construction of the Jalaur River Multi-purpose Dam.
“It is an insult to the Tumandok and the victims of rights violations that the persons responsible for these human rights violations, instead of being prosecuted and punished, remain in public service and are being considered for promotion,” the group said.
Panay Alliance Karapatan said they are calling anew for justice to be served for the victims of the Tumandok massacre, and over the spate of human rights violations in the region.
The Marcos administration’s protestations that the Philippine justice system is working are exposed for the deceptions that they are when the government itself refuses to acknowledge that atrocities are frequently committed by state forces, shields the perpetrators from accountability, and rewards their leaders with career advancement,” the group said.
They assailed the “protection clearly afforded to and enjoyed by the culprits to this very day” and called for the “conduct of genuine, independent, and impartial investigations into all incidents of human rights violations.”