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OLONGAPO, Zambales -- Murdered Dutch missionary and development worker Wilhelm Geertman had long been vilified as a “communist" and rebel supporter by the military and was apparently placed under surveillance days before he was gunned down Tuesday in San Fernando, Pampanga, activists said.
Geertman, 67, was shot dead by two gunmen just outside the office of Alay Bayan Luzon Inc., the nongovernmental organization engaged in grassroots disaster preparedness of which he was executive director, just past noon Tuesday.
The killers also grabbed a bag containing money Geertman had just withdrawn from a bank, leading police to suggest his death was the offshoot of a robbery.
However, the Central Luzon chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said this history of Red baiting against Geertman tended to bolster observations he was killed because of the work he did.
Bayan has released screen grabs from closed circuit television camera footage showing Geertman’s killers as they fled the scene of the crime on a motorcycle driven by a third man and trailed by a red car that had apparently brought them for the hit.
Bayan-Central Luzon spokesperson Roman Polintan said data gathered during a fact-finding mission they undertook into Geertman’s murder showed that the Dutch development worker had first been targeted for vilification and harassment by the military from the time he campaigned against mining and illegal logging in Aurora province in the 1980s, when he and his fellow activists were tagged as “communists” and “NPA (the communist New People’s Army) supporters.”
In 2006 to 2007, at the height of Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency program of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Geertman was among those maligned in a spurious letter supposedly written and circulated by the Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion.
In the document, he was identified as a leader of the revolutionary underground who was purportedly engaged in gathering support for the making and stockpiling of improvised explosive devices in San Luis town.
And after he became executive director of Alay Bayan Luzon in 2009, he was tagged by the military as the spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Central Luzon.
One time, Politan said, Geertman was almost run over by a speeding motorcycle as he and a colleague were crossing a street near a police station in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Days before Geertman was murdered, Alay Bayan Luzon staff reported unidentified men loitering around their office. Neighbors also saw men trying to peer into the office compound from the gate.
Geertman was the second European community worker killed during the term of President Benigno Aquino, after Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio, who was also an anti-mining advocate and environmentalist who championed the causes of the indigenous peoples Mindanao.
Tentorio was gunned down in the church compound of Arakan, North Cotabato in October last year.
Interviewed by this reporter late last year during a disaster relief operation Alayan Bayan Luzon undertook in Subic, Zambales, Geertman said he was an exchange student at the University of the Philippines during the Martial Law years who came to love the Philippines so much he stayed for good to work full time on development programs for peasants.