IFI Bishop, groups denounce massacre in Negros

Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop and former Obispo Maximo denounced the massacre of a farmer’s family last Wednesday, June 14, in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

Bishop Rhee Timbang said the brutal murder of Roly Fausto (55), his wife Emelda Fausto (50) and their two children Ben Fausto (15) and Ravin Fausto (12) is “horrendous beyond measure,” adding the massacre must be condemned and the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Citing reports by human rights groups in Negros, the prelate said the alleged perpetrators are soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

He added that the Faustos had been victims of incessant red-tagging and other human rights violations in the past months.

 Timbang revealed that the victims were active IFI members whose leaders have been similarly subjected to red-tagging by state security forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

 The Faustos were also members of the Baclayan-Bito-Cabagal Farmers and Farmworkers Association (BABICAFA).

Long victims of Philippine Army’s atrocities

Alternative media group Paghimutad first reported about the massacre last Thursday, quoting human rights group September 21 Movement as saying the massacre was the culmination of a series of incidents involving the victims and the soldiers.

The Fausto family’s ordeal began on March 22, 2022, when Emelda, while returning from doing the laundry, encountered a group of armed men both in military uniforms and civilian clothing around their house, Paghimutad reported.

Around 12 individuals, purportedly soldiers, subjected her to intense interrogation and even brandished a knife in front of her. The soldiers then ransacked the house and slaughtered their chickens. Emelda later discovered that P5,000 of her family’s money, hidden in folded clothes, had vanished, it said.

Later that day, Roly, upon returning from work on the farm, was also subjected to relentless interrogation and coercion.

In a vacant hut 500 meters away from their house, Roly was tied ordered to confess his alleged affiliation with the New People’s Army (NPA).

Roly was kicked on the shoulders and held until 7 PM before being transferred to a military detachment in Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City.

At the detachment, Roly was slapped and was forced to accompany the soldiers in a nighttime patrol, the report added.

On May 15, 2023, Emelda sought assistance from the group September 21 Movement to report two instances of their house being forcibly opened and ransacked.

Emelda told the group their hut was broken into last May 4 where their belongings were scattered, the Paghimutad report further revealed.

More condemnations

Other groups also condemned the bloodbath and called for accountability.

“It is inhumanity and savagery in modern society in a country that is signatory to international instruments on human rights,” the group Human Rights Alliance of Negros (HRAN) said in a statement. 

“Under Marcos rule the Philippine Army [has] become the murderers of the people in the countrysides reminiscent of the brutal rule of his dictator father,” HRAN added.

Enviromental group Kalikasan said the killings were “savage” that violated both human rights and international humanitarian law.

“The killing of farmers who defend their rights and welfare undermines their crucial role as environmental defenders. We demand justice for the victims and urge the Commission on Human Rights to investigate,” Kalikasan said in a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)