As they commemorate the seventh year of the murder of Dutch lay missionary Willem Geertman today, rights group Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) said the fight for justice continues as the masterminds remain at large.
The group welcomed the guilty verdict on a suspect for Geertman’s murder on July 1, two days before families and friends remembered how he was killed in the office of Alay Bayan Inc., a non-government organization where he was executive director, at the time of the killing.
San Fernando City Regional Trial Court Branch 48 Judge Christine Marie C. Capule found Marvin Marzan Nuguid guilty for the killing of Geertman and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, or 20 to 30 years in jail.
Maria Aurora Santiago, who was fiancee of Geertman and vice chairperson of Hustisya, said she is happy with the court’s decision.
“I thank everyone who tirelessly supported our struggle to attain justice for Willem, especially to the National Union of People’s Lawyers, and organizations and individuals who are part of the Justice for Willem Geertman Movement!” said Santiago.
Santiago also called on to supporters and rights advocates not to stop here because the conviction of the gunman is an “initial victory.”
“Nuguid is a hired gunman, which means that masterminds to Willem’s murder remain at large. Those who had the motive to kill Willem and planned the killing have greater accountability and should be brought to justice. Let us continue the fight,” Santiago said.
Hustisya chairperson Evangeline Hernandez said the conviction of the gunman in Geertman’s killing is significant to the rest of victims of political killings.
”Impunity prevails at present, with the killings of activists and rights advocates here and there, but for as long as families, friends and supporters and the public continue to cry out for justice, perpetrators to human rights violations will see their day in court,” Hernandez said.
Geertman lived and worked for more than 40 years in the Philippines, specifically in Baler, Aurora and helped farmers and indigenous peoples in the area. Months before his killing, Geertman experienced harassment and vilification from state agents, which is the reason why rights groups asserted that his murder was politically-motivated, and not a simple case of robbery.
“Had Geertman been the usual visiting foreigner, the case of robbery with homicide would have been appropriate, but he was not. Geertman was an activist. He fought against destructive mining, against landgrabbing and other projects that displaced the peasants and indigenous peoples in Aurora,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement at the time.###
Reference: Maria Aurora Santiago, Hustisya vice chairperson, 0939-9141993