31 July 2006 3:45pm
Northern Dispatch Info Service
Kalinga Bayan Muna head wounded, wife killed in death-squad ambush
BAGUIO CITY, 31 July (NORDIS) – Dr. Constancio "Chandu" Claver, chairperson of the Kalinga chapter of Bayan Muna was seriously wounded and his wife Alice Omengan Claver killed in an ambush by two gunmen at 6:45 am this morning (Monday July 31) in Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga.
Mrs. Claver, 42, expired at around 12:30 pm, despite efforts to save her life by attending physicians at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital, where the couple was rushed after the shooting. Dr. Claver was declared out of danger earlier this morning.
The Clavers had just come out from St. Toni's College, where they dropped off their their older daughters for classes, and were taking a U-turn at the Bulanao junction when the armed men, reportedly riding on two Delica vans, fired on their car.
Claver suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the left arm and chest, while Alice was shot four times in the head, neck and shoulders. Their 7-year-old daughter, who was with them, was dazed but unhurt. Janice Ewag, 23, a student bystander, was also hit by stray bullets. Local police said they recovered M16 rifle shells at the site.
Claver, a medical doctor who is more popularly known by his native Igorot name Chandu, is a scion of a prominent Cordillera clan that includes former Kalinga congressman William Claver and Bontoc mayor Louis Claver.
The 49-year old Chandu has been long active in community-based health initiatives and indigenous peoples' concerns since the Marcos era. He is also the vice chairperson of the Kalinga chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.
In an interview by nationwide radio station dzRH, PNP Kalinga chief Pedro Ramos claimed that Claver was a member of the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF).
Interviewed by phone, relatives and colleagues denied this police allegation as totally unfounded. They alluded to earlier incidents where Chandu reportedly received veiled warnings from local authorities that "he would be next if he did not get out of Kalinga soon."
This, they presumed, was in reference to the earlier killing of Rafael Markus Bangit, another militant CPA leader and elder of the Kalinga Malbong tribe. Bangit was shot dead on June 8 at a bus stopover in Isabela, also by van-riding masked men, on his way from Kalinga to Baguio City.
According to a CPA fact sheet on the incident, Dr. Claver noticed intensified surveillance and harassment after Bangit's killing. Alice also received a harassing text message from an anonymous cellphone caller that said, "Matapang si Doc. Hindi niya kayo mahal." ("Doc is brave. He doesn't love you.")
Alice herself was an active member of the CPA as a college student in Manila. She remained a staunch supporter of the indigenous people's organization when she returned to Tabuk, married Chandu, and raised three daughters, the CPA said.
Regional PNP authorities denied that there is a pattern of political killings in Kalinga, amidst widespread allegations by human rights groups that the province was turning into a "killing fields" and that locally-based death squads were being coddled by certain military and police officials. #