History of Negros Nine
Background to the Case of the Negros Nine
On March 10, 1982 the Mayor of Kabankalan and four companions were ambushed and killed on a deserted road on the outskirts of Kabankalan.
Six months later in September Fr Brian Gore returned to his parish of Oringao in the mountains of Kabankalan after six months vacation in his native Australia. On his first night in the parish the military raided his parish compound looking for Geronimo, one of his organizers, who had confronted them over their abuse of one of the Kristianong Katiligban members earlier that day in the marketplace. Failing to find him they ransacked the parish office and left.
The next morning they came back and were confronted by Fr Gore. Subseqently Fr Gore, Geronimo and another member were detained for a few hours then released to Fr Gore’s superiors.
At a subsequent Church-Military Liason Meeting Frs Gore and O’Brien confronted the military about their abuses in the mountains. Without waiting for a report on the “detention of Fr Gore and his two companions” charges of inciting to rebellion were filed against Fr Gore and his six community organizers, Conrado Muhal, Geronimo Perez, Jesus Arzaga, Peter Cuales, Ernesto Tajones and Lydio Mangao. A further charge of illegal possession of explosives and ammunition were filed against Gore. Military claimed to have found one handgrenade and five bullets when they raided his compound.
The seven were released on bail after three days in the Kabankalan Jail. A few weeks later a provincial newspaper broke the news that “Multple Murder Charges were poised against Gore and O’Brien and seven others” namely a Filipino priest Vincente Dangan and Gore’s six community organizers. On the way to the first hearing on the initial charges against Gore and his workers, they were blocked for awhile by the military at a newly set up check point near the parish center.
In March of 1983 Gore was summoned to Manila to face deportation charges instigated by the military. For deportation all is needed is a preponderance of evidence, unlike a regular trial. The military asserted that Gore was an undesirable alien and should be deported. The two charges as well as the impending charge of multiple murder were enough to declare him undesirable and a threat to national security.
After three day’s of hearings the military failed to present their case convincingly enough so Gore was sent back to face the multiple murder charges. Which is what he had asked for on the first day of the hearings. Also during the hearings Robert Hawke was elected Prime Minister of Australia. Word soon passed around the court that Gore and Hawke were from the same place, Perth. Acting out of the local culture the dictatorship it seems did not want to anger the new Labour Prime Minister, who might just be “related” to Gore in some way. Loans of 60 million Australian dollars were pending with the Australian Government as well as ongoing military support.
On May 6, 2003 not long after his return to Negros all nine were arrested and imprisioned in Kabankalan on charges of multiple murder for which the penalty, if found guilty, was the electric chair. The drama of the Negros Nine, which was to become an international nightmare for the regime over the next 14 months, had now begun.
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