A Roman Catholic Bishop said the massacre of nine Tumandok tribesfolk in Panay Island is a continuation of the mass killings and arrests in Negros Island since 2018 under operations devised by now Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Debold Sinas and one of his predecessors and now Senator Rogelio “Bato” Dela Rosa.
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said that the Rizal Day massacre of the Tumandok is similar to the massacre of six and the mass arrest of 26 in the towns Guihulngan, Mabinay, and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental in December 2018 as well as the killing of 14 farmers in the island in March 2019.
“We recall with sadness that the ‘one-time, big-time’ SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations) under Oplan Sauron by then-PNP Provincial Regional Office-7 Director Debold Sinas and PNP Chief Rogelio ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa led to violent killings and arrests,” Alminaza said in a statement.
“These operations were carried out mostly during wee hours, and the farmers were shot under unproven claims that they fought it out,” he added.
The Prelate also noted that the killings were part of the police’s service of search and arrest warrants while those arrested were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Police and military operatives raided Tumandok tribal communities in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog in Iloilo last December 30 that resulted in the death of nine who have been previously accused by government agents as New People’s Army members.
Killed were Eliseo Gayas, Jr., Mauro Diaz, Arcelito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Roy Giganto, Jomer Vidal, Dalson Catamin, Reynaldo Katipunan and Rolando Diaz, Sr. who campaigned for the return of their ancestral land by the military and opposed the construction of the Jalaur Mega-Dam project.
Some of the victims were elderly while four of them were elected local government officials.
Sixteen were also arrested, including minors.
However, both Oplan Sauron and SEMPO “failed to bring lasting peace and instead bred a culture of even more violence and disrespect for our people,” Alminaza said.
“Under the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration and Oplan Sauron alone, there are now over 106 cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings recorded in Negros island,” he added.
Alminaza said he is alarmed the killings in Capiz demonstrate how Oplan Sauron and SEMPO will be implemented throughout the country.
“To President Duterte and PNP Chief Sinas: Serve the God of Peace; Stop Sauron, the Lord of Evil!” the Bishop said.
Earlier, the Capiz Archdiocese Social Action Center (CASAC) expressed sadness that some of the victims were farmers and members of the indigenous people’s tribe while some are still missing and their families grieving.
“[T]his incident raises our concern and thus, vehemently condemn this act of violence. In this time of calmness, there should be no room for the cultivation of fear and impunity,” CASAC said.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) in Panay and Guimaras islands likewise condemned the Capiz massacre and blamed Sinas and President Duterte for the carnage.
“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok…is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang,’ his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR said.
The faith-based group also blamed the SEMPO for the assassinations of Bayan Muna Iloilo City Coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia and Federation of Ilonggo Farmers leader John Farochilin in April 2020. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)