A national solidarity mission reported government soldiers were responsible for the killing of the Fausto family and other farmers in Negros Island.
Visiting Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental last Thursday, June 22, to independently probe into the recent killings of farmers in the province, Kabataan Party Rep. Raoul Manuel and members of progressive organizations said state forces are committing and actively covering up human rights violations in the province.
In a press conference Friday, the mission said it found a “similar pattern” in the killing of four members of the Fausto family last June 14 and the killing of farmer Crispin Tingal last May 3.
“It (was) a culmination of a series of harassment, destruction of properties, violation of domicile, illegal search and red tagging that was similarly inflicted on the Tingal family who barely escaped a pattern of attacks, from red tagging to massacre,” the mission said.
In their visit to Himamaylan, the mission reported that the military and the paramilitary with blocked out nametags tried to block their way to Barangay Buenavista but said they were able to document several human rights violations committed by the military and the police.
The mission said the residents reported there have been at least three incidents of frustrated killings; three incidents of illegal arrest; a case of enforced disappearance; threats, harassment and intimidation; violation of domicile; destruction of livelihood; use of public space for military purpose; endangerment of civilian populace; attacks on schools and disruption of classes for two weeks after a military attack; and indiscriminate firing and red tagging.
‘None of it new’
The mission’s press conference and announcement came a day after Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Lacson, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (PNP) held their own press conference announcing they have witnesses to prove the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible for the killing of the Fausto family.
Himamaylan City police chief Reynante Jomocan said they have “judicial affidavits” from witnesses claiming 15 armed men killed the family, led by an alleged NPA squad leader.
Mission participant and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) chairperson Ariel Casilao however dismissed the police and military’s claims, saying reports on the ground say otherwise.
“Stories of coercion, in which witnesses are forced to testify and follow a script provided by the PNP to paint the NPA as perpetrators, have been shared with us. And sadly, none of this is new: what happened to the victims and survivors of the Sagay massacre—blamed for the very attack perpetrated on them—is a testament to the PNP’s same old modus operandi,” Casilao said.
Mission participant and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Negros Occidental Bishop Virgilio Amihan said they are heartbroken by the growing numbers of widows and orphans due to “the devastating impacts of extrajudicial killings” that affect families and communities in his diocese.
“As shepherd of the flock, we call to bring it comes of the brutal and barbaric killings of the Fausto’s and put the perpetrators behind bars to end the widespread EJK in the Island of Negros,” said Bishop Amihan.
The Faustos were IFI members.
Kabataan Party Representative Raoul Manuel announced that the Makabayan bloc has filed on June 19 House Resolution 1091 calling on the House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the massacre of the Fausto family.
Manuel said that the resolution is the first filed by Makabayan on the civilian killings in Negros, saying that even without a formal declaration, martial law is practically in effect in the militarized areas of the island.
The mission also urged the Commission on Human Rights, the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate to conduct an impartial investigation of reported human rights violations in Negros.
“(We call) for an end to “the relentless attacks on farming communities not only in Himamaylan and Kabankalan but in the whole Negros Island,” the mission said.
“Families experience loss of livelihood, severe trauma, especially among children, and a grave violation of their freedom of association. Farmers who cultivate the land and feed the nation deserve peace, justice and the right to enjoy the fruits of their labor,” it added.
Bishop Amihan added that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) must resume peace negotiations.
“Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law violations in the GRP-NDFP armed conflict create many victims…Let us move forward to the negotiating table and resume the resume the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks,” Amihan urged. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, in Bali, Indonesia)