Philippine Daily Inquirer February 7, 2001
Labor leader Filemon "Popoy" Lagman (a former UP student) died Tuesday night, Feb. 6, several hours after two men shot him four times in the head inside the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
Lagman, 47, chair of the militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), was walking with his son Dante and his partner Michelle toward the Ang Bahay ng Alumni on Balagtas Street when the gunmen attacked him at about 4:30 p.m.
He was on his way to a forum, Alternative Lawyers for Public Interest, sponsored by the UP College of Law.
Lagman had just alighted from a green Toyota Corolla car with Plate No. WGT-329 and was about to take the stairs leading to the Ang Bahay ng Alumni when shot.
Dr. Aurora Parong, executive director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, said she and other participants of the forum heard four gunshots followed by shouts of "Tulong, tulong" (Help, help!) by a woman.
Lagman's body was carried to a vehicle and was rushed to the Philippine Heart center.
Albay Rep. Krisel Luistro, the victim's niece, said a neuro-surgeon had to be called from St. Luke's Medical center to perform surgery on her uncle at the Heart center.
As of 6:50 Tuesday Night, Edcel Lagman (AB'62cl; LLB'66), a former Albay congressman and father of Krisel, described his younger brother's condition as very critical. He said his brother was still unconscious and was in no condition to undergo an operation, according to his doctors.
By 9 p.m., doctors declared the former head of the urban communist hit squad Alex Boncayo Brigade dead.
The senior Lagman appealed to the UP police Tuesday night to find his brother's attackers.
"We have information that (as of 5:45 p.m.) the gunmen were still inside the campus," the senior Lagman said in Filipino on radio.
The shooting of Lagman, one of the leaders of the party-list group Sanlakas, is the first celebrated crime committed under the Macapagal administration.
Sanlakas was one of the groups that supported the broad-coalition that ousted Presdeitn Joseph Estrada but it rejected Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Estrada's successor.
President Macapagal assured the labor leader's family that the government would hunt downt he suspects.
Newly installed Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, who came to the hospital at about 7:20 p.m., said he was personally instructed by the President to relay the assurance to Lagman's family.
Shortly after news of the shooting reached the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame, acting PNP chief Deputy Director general Leandro Mendoza proceeded to the crime scene.
Mendoza also visited Lagman at the hospital.
Mendoza ordered the Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG), the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and the Intelligence Group to run after the gunmen.
Tuesday night, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation formed Task Force Popoy.
It is headed by National Capital Regional Office Director Chief Supt. Edgardo Aglipay.
On Tuesday night, the UP police had taken a sworn statement of one witness, a security guard Randy de la Cruz.
In his narration before UP Special Police Investigator Geoffrey Mendoza, De la Cruz said he was inside Ang Bahay ng Alumni when he heard a single gunshot. It was followed by two more successive gunshots.
Crime investigators later reported that three shells of a .45 cal. automatic were found at the scene.
De la Cruz said he rushed outside and saw Lagman's body slumped on the pavement in a pool of blood about two meters away from the Ang Bahay's stairway.
By then the assailants, all carrying handguns, were on the run on Balagtas Street.
The gunmen then flagged down a silver grey Toyota Corolla driven by Dr. Edward Padilla-Navarro. They forced the driver out at gunpoint.
De la Cruz said he tried to chase the gunmen but two of them threatened to shoot him.
The assailants then drove away for less that a kilometer from the crime scene before abandoning the car in Pook Palaris.
A 13-year-old boy, who say the gunmen get out of the car, said the suspects "looked like policemen," according to Investigator Mendoza.
The boy said the gunmen appeared to be around 30 years old, of heavy build, and sporting military haircuts, Mendoza said. The suspects wore denim pants and gray and black T-shirts.
Before Lagman's ambush, The Netherlands-based Jose Ma. Sison (AB'59cl), founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, had accused Estrada and former PNP chief Director General Panfilo Lacson of masterminding an alleged assassination plot against him.
In a short statement sent through the Internet, Sison said it was hard to suggest motives for the shooting because the labor leader made "a lot of enemies."
As far as the revolutionary movement was concerned, "Popoy was tolerated because of his anti-Estrada posture," Sison said.
The senior Lagman said there were many possible motives for the shooting. "But my brother is in a legitimate labor group. His advocacy is for the poor and the Filipino workers," he said.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), a rival labor group of the BMP, expressed shock over the ambush of Lagman.
"While we have been known rivals in the labor front, our conflict has always been kept open and conducted within the bounds of the legal struggle," KMU chair Crispin Beltran said in a statement.
Beltran said Lagman's line of "Resign all" during the height of the broad Estrada resign movement was unpopular.
"His and his group's follow-up on that line, to wit: 'Gloria is not the People's choice,' and their anti-trapo campaign could have generated a political backlash against him," Beltran said.
Beltran said Lagman's alleged tie-up with the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) of Lacson and the multimillion-peso deals that he brokered with the PEA-Amari and the Philippine Airlines were "also worth looking into as to the possible causes of the ambush."
The KMU said the ambush should not be used to blur the people's clamor for the arrest of Estrada and to sow "bloody intrigues between rival political groups and labor organizations."
The BMP described the shooting of Lagman as a "dastardly and cowardly crime that only reflected the hollowness of the country's democracy."
In a statement, the labor group said the shooting was politically motivated, as its leader was "a very controversial figure."
"Many have motives to eliminate Lagman. They had many opportunities, yet whoever they are, they had the confidence to strike only now, not then."
"It is a testament to the hollowness of our so-called democracy that revolutionaries who choose shift the struggle to the mainstream through legal yet militant means fall victim to a violent assassination," the BMP said.
The BMP said it would not be cowed by the shooting.
Fr. Max Abalos, Sanlakas national chair, said the Macapagal administration should conduct a thorough investigation to find out the motive and identity of the people behind the ambush.
Abalos said that Lagman was a very sincere leader of the poor workers" and that he joined the underground movement "for the people."
The Sanlakas chapter in Negros Occidental sought "immediate justice" for Lagman.
Ariel Guides, Sanlakas Negros spokesperoon, said the shooting of Lagman was done by "enemies of the working class."
In Pampanga, the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) and its armed wing, the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHP), condemned the shooting of Lagman.
"Whatever his differences with other revolutionary groups, Lagman was a rebel who would and could not live with the status quo and who staunchly pursued his beliefs to the extent of challenging the powers-that-be," the MLPP said.
It said the shooting could be "the handiwork of undemocratic forces that cannot tolerate different and any differing idea," MLPP spokesperson Leonardo Guevarra said.
Red Olalia, RHB spokesperson, said Lagman had long been a target of intrigues and threats by the CPP.
"The attempt on Popoy Lagman signals a new height of repression on legitimate workers and people's organizations," he said.
The death of Lagman was in some ways similar to the murder of KMU leader Rolando Olalia in 1986, a few months after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted and months before military rebels attempted a coup against then President Corazon Aquino.
Olalia and his driver Leonor Alay-ay were abducted on Nov. 12, 1986 and were found dead the net day in Cogeo, Antipolo.
The killings led to a massive protest march in Metro Manila.
The twin murders were blamed on military rebels. But nobody has been convicted.
Reprinted from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02/07/01