UU Murdered in Philippines

Lee Boeke Burke, UU Partner Church coordinator for the Philippines, sent around this tragic news.  Rev Nihal Attanayake, one of my mentors and staff for the UU Church of the Philippines wrote this public letter about the death of Arlyn Barotag, mother of two and pregnant who was murdered last week.  Her UU congregation is a member congregation of the UUA.

Arlyn Barotag was brutally murdered on June 2, 2009 in the village Nataban, Philippines. 

Arlyn was a faithful UU a mother of two kids 6 and 3 years old and was two months pregnant when she was brutally murdered. Arlyn’s husband Jonathan UU member had to find employment in Cebu City the adjoining Island to Negros and has been working for the last three years. He visits the family once in six months. 

On June 2, 2009 at about 7:30 in the evening a young man age 23 single a resident of the same community under the influence of alcohol had entered the house of Arlyn and said to have attempt rape. Arlyn carried the two children and ran out of the house and down the precipices crying for help. Her cry did not fall on any body’s ears. The family relatives and members of the congregation lived scattered in the area at a distance of 500 meters and more.  

She had stumbled over the rocky surface and had a fall and possibly knocked her head against the rocks that gave enough for the man who chased her and repeatedly stab her more than thirteen times, revealed at the inquest.  

The elder child of 6 years crawled her way to the near by neighbor’s house at about 500 meters at that time and cried for help on behalf of her mother and the three year old was by the side of the mother in shock having the traumatic experience of witnessing the mother been murdered and was found with blood bath as the neighbors rushed to the site. 

The brother in Law and a member saw the suspect in the act from a distance as they approached the scene and identified the man who ran away in to the woods. 

The family members of the young man the murderer had fled the community that night but through a coordinated effort he was arrested from a place at the distance of about twenty to thirty kilometers away. He is now under custody of the Police in San Carlos City.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is said to have taken responsibility to pursue the case against the suspect in Court. 

At my visit to the congregation on June 13 the members gathered in the chapel and all were there still unable to get rid of the traumatic experience. It was too much of shocking news to me and I was helpless and deeply sad with what had happened. When I asked why we were not informed of this tragedy I was told that they them selves were very much feeling helpless and shocked and waited till I visited them to share their experience. 

I spent the afternoon with them gathering information and listening to them and their feelings. The women expressed fear for their lives with this event. There are three families whose husbands are working in cities as construction workers in Cebu and Manila.

As I listened to their story we identified concerns.

Some are to find short time solutions and some are long term solutions to concerns.

We sat and drew the community map and identified the locations of their residences in the village. We saw that out of 15 families 13 families were living scattered in about 2 kilo meters radius. The houses are located at a distance of about 200 meters, 300 meters 500 meters and 1 kilo meter.                                                   1 

WE asked our selves why no body heard the cry for help?

The geographical setting of the landscape and the direction of the wind prevent been heard.

We asked our selves why the cell-phones they had were not used to Communicate? There are particular areas where they can find the signals. The batteries run down and to recharge they need to get to the community proper where there is electricity. They cannot reload their cell-phones all the time because they do not have money for that. 

We asked our selves then how are we to take are of each other as we are afraid now?

A possible solution could be to provide families with hand sets. 

We asked our selves Why this type of crimes take place?

Because of alcoholism and use of dangerous drugs which is grown in small quantity in the area

[Marijuana]

Such crimes are committed mostly by People who do not work and idle.  

Who will take care of the two children?

The Aunt of the two children offered to take care of the children and asked me for help with sending the 6 year old to school. That is one concern we need help with but the most immediate help is to provide counseling both to the Aunt and to the two children. Arranging for those facilities are essential. The father of the two children wants to continue work in Cebu and earn his living. 

We asked our selves why do husbands have to leave their families and work in far places?

They have tried do farming and have found it less income generating because there is not enough funding to spend on all costs for farming. Some times natural calamities such as strong winds and typhoon rains destroy the farms.

If sufficient funds are available they prefer to stay and farm. 

We seek justice for Arlyn and in order to do that we need to be consistent with pursuing the case

And very important two aspects in seeking justice for Arlyn is to have the witnesses be present in court at all times when Court hearings take place. The other is to support the two children with necessary counseling and future plans for their development.  

In consultation with the UUCP President and coordination, on behalf of the UUCP I seek you help in support of justice for Arlyn Barotag. 

On page 3 I attach the crime scene pictures taken by the Police and forward to me by Arlyn’s husband. It is not at all pleasant to watch. You may refrain from viewing if you wish. 

We are still gathering information and finding ways to approach this very heart braking concern. I am willing to provide you with more details and information as days go by. Please feel free to write and ask. 

Wishing you well and greatly saddened, 

Nihal Attanayake

International Relations Officer

Chair FIA Com. Director Partnership

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