February 01, 2007
The Philippines: "Stop the Killings"
BY Carlos H. Conde
Activists during a September 20, 2006, demonstration demanding an end to political killings. (Photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan)
It was a Saturday night in Davao City and the open-air bar was filling up with young people. As they streamed in, their eyes fixed on the band playing a song by Coldplay, they seemed dazzled by the bright, colorful light emanating from the stage of Kanto Bar, one of the more popular hang-outs in this city on the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.
"We should switch seats," Omar Bantayan told me as I was about to sit with my back facing the wall. "I want to see the people entering the bar," he explained. "It's always better to be safe."
Bantayan is only 28. In jeans and a white T-shirt, he looked like an ordinary person out to have some fun on the weekend. But Bantayan told me he was a marked man. As the local secretary-general of a leftist labor group called Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement), Bantayan said he's been in the crosshairs of the military for the past three years, with suspected military agents tailing him constantly.