May 21, 2015
(PHILIPPINES) Killing of a Human Rights Defender
The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the killing of a former priest who is a human rights defender.
If you wish to make any inquiries please contact the Research, Documentation and Information Program of TFDP, kindly send email to
or call +632 4378054.
Title: Labastilla EJK
Case: Extra-Judicial Killing
Victim: Teresito Mula Labastilla, 46 years old
Date of Incident: February 12, 2015
Place of Incident: Dionisio Micayabas Street, North Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon
Perpetrators: Unidentified motorcycle-riding men
Motive: Land-related; connected to victim’s advocacy in helping the CARP beneficiaries
Account of the incident:
A former priest and human rights defender of indigenous people and farmers was killed by unknown assailants on a motorcycle at Dionisio Micayabas Street, North Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon last February 12, 2015, around 7:45 in the morning.
Teresito Mula Labastilla, also known as Fr. Sito, 46 years old, dropped his son at Maramag Central School on the morning of the day of the incident. While Labastilla was about to leave the school premise, he was peppered with bullets by the two motorcycle-riding men. His son Tristan Matthew, who just got down from the vehicle, heard a series of gun shots and heard his father calling him. He saw their Isuzu Samurai vehicle accelerate toward the concrete wall, skidded and overturned with his father still inside.
Shocked onlookers ran towards the overturned vehicle and helped Labastilla get out. The men aboard the motorcycle sped off. The victim was bloodied and unconscious. The onlookers helped lay him down on the concrete road while they waited for a vehicle to bring Labastilla to the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag. He was declared dead on arrival. He sustained three gunshot wounds in his neck, face and chest. The attending physician said that all the bullets went through his body. The police investigated the crime scene and recovered four empty cartridges of a .45 caliber gun.
Arline Amigo, Labastilla’s live-in partner, learned about what happened when someone went to their house in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag to fetch her and accompany her to the hospital. But at that time, she thought that Labastilla was only injured. When she arrived at the hospital, she was directed to the morgue. Amigo was distressed and disoriented. She and Labastilla were soon to be married.
Witnesses recounted to her that the two assailants rode a white or blue XRM motorcycle that had no plate number. Both men were wearing masks. The victim was about to leave the area after he brought his son to school when the back rider of the motorcycle shot the back tire of Labastilla’s vehicle. The victim was then shot three times. Tristan Matthew was almost hit by the motorcycle. He told his mother that he already noticed the motorcycle-riding men since December 2014. The suspects usually stood by the front of his school and he saw them every time his father dropped him off at school.
Labastilla was a well-known environmental activist in the province. He was a priest for 14 years and was assigned in Malaybalay City, Lantapan, and San Fernando, Bukidnon diocese. He left the priesthood in 2000 and had his own family.
He ran for mayor in Lantapan, Bukidnon in 2010, but lost. The current mayor filed a case of Oral Defamation against Labastilla. A day before he was killed, he was convicted and had the penalty of imprisonment for ten days and was ordered to pay ten thousand pesos (P10,000). During his campaign, Labastilla said that he desired for honest and sincere services to be given to the people of the municipality. His main advocacy was for the issues of land and water to be resolved for the farmers and indigenous people in his area.
He is also the spiritual adviser and consultant of the local organization called Bukidnon Agrarian Reform and Agri-Business Multipurpose Association (BARAMA). The organization was established last February 3, 2008. It promotes organic farming among the IPs and farmers in the province.
Agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Base Camp, Maramag were having difficulties in occupying the awarded 34 hectares of land after a former owner sent private armies to the area and harassed them. The beneficiaries solicited advice from Labastilla and he accommodated them. He used his vehicle and drove for the farmers when they needed to make follow ups regarding their case. Amigo and the other people close to Labastilla think that this might be the reason why he was killed.
Maramag Police Chief Jose Sevillero recently visited Amigo and showed her a cartographic sketch of one of the suspects. She said that she hopes that the case will be resolved soon and that justice will be served.
Amigo now fears for her life and her children’s. They have noticed motorcycle-riding men going around their residence.