A FORMER priest who was also known as a former leader and a negotiator of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was killed after he was shot several times by a still unidentified gunman Friday night, May 28, 2021.
The attack took place around 8:20 p.m. in Pusok Caimito, Barangay Upper Poblacion, Pilar town in the Camotes Islands.
The victim was identified as 80-year-old Rustico Luna Tan, married.
Tan had gunshot wounds in his face, neck and other parts of the body.
Lt. Renerio Mejeas, chief of the Pilar Police Station, said Tan was sleeping in a hammock in the terrace of his house which has no fence and is located along the road. He was alone.
His neighbors said after hearing several gunshots, they noticed a motorcycle carrying two persons leaving the area. However, none of them saw the gunman.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Tan’s bullet-riddled body still in the hammock.
Mejeas said they’re waiting for the victim’s family so they could gather additional information on Tan.
He said they will pursue all possible angles in their investigation. However, the police official said he is not very familiar with Tan because he only recently became the town’s police chief.
According to Tan’s neighbors, the victim was a good man.
Upper Poblacion Barangay Captain Rodrigo Heramis, in a dySS Super Radyo interview, said they never noticed the victim acting suspiciously.
Heramis said he was aware of Tan’s involvement in the communist insurgency.
He said he had a talk with Tan about minors who had been seen in the latter’s house.
Tan told him that he was teaching them how to plant.
“Akong gisusi kay naila ni siya nga naa sa wa, pero nakita nako nag-gardening ra man. Unya wala koy nakita nga laing kalihukan,” Heramis said.
(I dropped by his house because everyone in the community knew about Tan’s past, but I just saw the minors gardening. I saw nothing else out of the ordinary.)
He said Tan had not left the area since January. Before, despite his age, Tan would visit several barangays in his motorcycle.
They also discovered that Tan had two children with his wife, he added.
Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo said they have yet to establish a motive for Tan’s death.
He said the Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO) is pursuing one angle, but he can’t divulge what it is.
However, they also can’t discount Tan’s past membership with the CPP.
“I told our investigators to conduct a thorough investigation so that once we have all the details, we can divulge these to the public,” Montejo said in Cebuano.
The PRO 7 director said he will let the CPPO conduct the investigation, adding that there’s no need to create a special investigation task force.
Aside from being a political detainee, Tan was the chief peace negotiator for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in 1986 and 1987 during talks with the administration of then President Corazon Aquino.
On Nov. 9, 2017, Tan was arrested and detained in the Bohol District Jail for 14 counts of murder. The Tagbilaran City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 dismissed the case in October 2019.
Two months after his release, he was again arrested for murder that was filed before the Bacolod RTC Branch 46 in Negros Occidental. Tan was freed three months later “on recognizance.”
The last hearing for his case was held on Thursday, May 27.
In a statement, members of the Movement Against Tyranny Cebu condemned the killing of Tan, whom they described as a “progressive” clergyman who championed the causes of the poor and the oppressed.
“Ang iyang pagkaprogresibo, pagkapari, ug pagka-Pilipino nakita diha sa iyang pagkaaktibo sa pag-umad sa gingharian sa Diyos diri sa yuta pinaagi sa paningkamot makab-ot ang kaangayan ug katarungan alang sa katawhan,” it said.
The group accused the Duterte administration of failing to implement the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which protects individuals involved in peace talks between the national government and the CPP.
King Anthony Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers Cebu chapter also condemned Tan’s murder in a statement posted on the Kilusang Mayo Uno’s official Facebook page.
Perez said Tan’s death and those of other slain activists are proof that the recently approved Anti-Terror Law (ATL) is after those who express dissent against the government.
“The ATL is the ultimate state weapon against dissenters and activists. But even before that, many things have been done to weaponize our current law to deter the sense of freedom and the exercise of our rights,” Perez said in Tagalog. (GPL WITH ADDITIONAL REPORT FROM REV, JKV / PJB)