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Fact-finding mission says paramilitary killed Sagay farmers

A national fact-finding mission on the massacre of nine farmers in Negros Occidental said suspected government agents are behind the bloodbath last October 20 even as the Philippine National Police insists so-called recruiters of the victims are the suspected perpetrators.

The mission said the likely killers are active members of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) who are “commonly known” to be engaged in protecting haciendas and are under the control of the local government of Sagay City.

Based on the way the victims were brutalized after being killed and their history of killings and harassments, it is likely SCAA gunmen, numbering 10 to 15, killed the farmers, the mission said.

The group also cited earlier red-baiting statements issued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leading to the massacre.

The mission was composed of Salinlahi, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, KARAPATAN National Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Gabriela Women’s Party Congresswoman Arlene Brosas and Atty. Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Hours before the massacre, the victims started a land cultivation activity to plant vegetables to tide them over in between sugarcane cropping activities.

Police story

The Philippine National Police, however, insisted on its story that the victims were killed as part of a plot to destabilize and oust the Rodrigo Duterte government.

PNP Region VI director John Bulalacao said they filed multiple murder charges Friday against Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo, both members of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), as well as other John Does.

Bulalacao said Saturday that Manlangit and Arquillo deceived the victims by enticing them to join the land cultivation activity in exchange for a parcel of land once Hacienda Nene is distributed to farmers through land reform.

“[They were] persuading innocent people by promising them land not knowing that they become part of a greater force that would generate outrage to the government,” Bulalacao claimed.

Bulalacao claimed the police have eight witnesses, including the 14-year old massacre survivor Sagay police earlier tried to arrest.

The police general said their “complainant-witnesses” voluntarily submitted their respective affidavits, including the statement of the minor as witnessed by the Sagay development and social welfare office.

Upon learning that the boy was about to be arrested by local police, however, his mother Flordeliza Cabahug and mission members claimed custody of the boy.

Red-baiting and killings before the massacre

The fact-finding mission cited that in April, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has accused the NFSW as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) and that their land cultivation activities are projects to fund NPA operations.

Last December 21, suspected SCAA members killed and burned the body of NFSW-Sagay chairperson Flora Gemola in Sagay’s Hacienda Susan.

In February 22, NFSW member Ronald Manlanat was shot in the head in Hacienda Joefred, also in Sagay.

The gunmen also shot some Hacienda Nene massacre victims on the head and burned three of them after being killed.

The mission said Hacienda Nene’s leaseholder Allan Simbingco rents 400 hectares of land of different haciendas in Sagay City alone.

“Most of the haciendas that he’s directly involved in are the ones with land disputes, even those already under so-called preliminary activities of Department of Agrarian Reform [prior to being awarded to farmer-beneficiaries],” the mission said.

Simbingco is a close relative of Sagay City mayor Alfredo Marañon III and Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Jr.

The Marañons are known to be actively recruiting former Revolutionary Proletarian Army gunmen to be part of the SCAA, the mission cited.

“In fact, the local housing project in Barangay Bulanon is allotted for SCAA members,” the mission said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: Sagay massacre child survivor needs protection from police

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines Special Office for the Protection of Children (SOPC) called for the protection of the 14-year old Sagay City massacre survivor the police earlier tried to take into custody.

Coni Ledesma, NDFP Negotiating Panel member and SOPC head said in a statement that the victim needs psycho-social support and the nurture of his family instead of being endangered into being branded a child soldier of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The last thing the boy needs is to be victimized and traumatized twice over by being treated like a criminal,” Ledesma, also a Negrense, said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) tried arresting the victim last Wednesday while in the custody of the City Social Work and Development Office of Sagay and said he may be both witness and suspect in the incident last Saturday that killed nine farmers.

Sagay Police Chief Inspector Robert Reyes Mansueto denied arresting the victim and said they only tried to him “for safekeeping.”

The boy was eventually returned to his mother with the help of human rights lawyers.

Ledesma said the minor is among the most vulnerable of the Sagay massacre survivors who needs urgent intervention.

The NDFP SOPC called on human rights, civic and religious organizations and concerned individuals to come to the aid of the child.

“His parents or guardians, his teachers, people from his community must stand up and vouch for him to prevent the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP from further violating his rights,” Ledesma said.

She added that the NDFP-SOPC is willing to provide support and assistance should the boy and his family request it. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘October Resistance’ isasagawa ng mga magsasaka

Isang press conference noong Oktubre 8 ang isinagawa nang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas o KMP at mga kaanib na organisasyon nito upang i-anunsyo ang kanilang pagkilos na tinaguriang “October Resistance against poverty, hunger and state fascism.”

Bilang bahagi ng buwan ng mga magsasaka ngayong Oktubre, iba’t-ibang aktibidad ang kanilang isasagawa bitbit ang panawagang tunay na reporma sa lupa, libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka, pagkontrol sa mga presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilhin gayundin ang pagtigil sa militarisasyon at paglabag sa karapatang tao sa kanayunan.

Ayon naman sa Amihan (Pambansang Pederasyon ng mga Kababaihang Magsasaka), lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at kababaihang magbubukid. Imbes na ibigay sa mga magsasaka ang lupain, inilaan pa ito sa ekspansyon ng mga plantasyon, malawakang pagmimina at land use conversion ang iba sa mga malaking kumpanya at panginoong maylupa.

Giit pa ng Amihan, walang plano si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura at pamimigay ng lupa sa mga magsasaka.

Mariin naman nilang binatikos ang pakanang ‘Red October’ ng gubyernong Duterte at Armed Forces of the Philippines at sinabing layunin lamang nito na takutin at pahupain ang tumitinding galit ng sambayanan dahil sa walang-awat na taas presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo dulot ng Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law o TRAIN Law.

Binigyan nila ng halimbawa ang patuloy na pampulitikang panunupil at “red tagging” sa mga organisasyon at aktibista.

Patuloy din ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga lider magsasaka kabilang na ang tagapangulo ng KMP sa Northern Mindanao na si Ereneo Ubarde at 33 iba pang lider sa rehiyon, gayundin ang pag-aresto kay Gerry Basahon, lider ng Misamis Oriental Farmers Association na kaanib ng KMP noong Oktubre 4, ani ng mga grupo.

Kinundena din nila ang pinakahuling kaso nang pamamaslang noong Oktubre 6 sa tagapangulo ng PAMALAKAYA sa Negros Oriental na si Jaime Delos Santos.

Dagdag pa ng KMP, kapag patuloy na tumindi ang atake nang rehimen tiyak na tatapatan ito ng paglaban nang taumbayan. Nakatakda ang kanilang malakihang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka sa Oktubre 19 sa ibat-ibang panig ng bansa. # (Bidyo at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas/Larawan ni Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

Magsasaka sa Negros, itinuro ang militar sa mga pagpatay

Ni Jo Maline D. Mamangun

Lungsod ng Bacolod—Nagharap ang mga magsasaka at mga lokal na opisyal ng Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental noong Miyerkules, July 18, kaugnay sa mga pagpatay sa naturang bayan mula pa noong Oktubre 2010.

Bilang bahagi ng isinasagawang International Solidarity Mission hinggil sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa  ilalim ng gubyerno ni Rodrigo Duterte, nag-usap ang grupo ng mga magsasaka na KAUGMA-ON  (Kapunongan alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay nga Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros) at  Guihulngan City Mayor Carlo Reyes sa tanggapan ng huli.

Inireklamo rin ng mga magsasaka ang malalakihang  operasyong militar sa kanilang mga pamayanan sa ilalim ng “Oplan Kapayapaan” ng pamahalaan na anila’y nagdudulot ng takot sa mga mamamayan.

Ayon sa kanila, walang tigil ang militar sa pang-uupat (harassment), pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso at mga extra-judicial killings sa mga lider at miyembro ng nasabing organisasyon.

Ayon sa KAUGMA-ON, may 23 kaso ng extra-judicial killing sa kanilang lugar simula noong 2016.

Chief of Police Baquiran (left) and Mayor Reyes (right). (Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Subalit itinanggi ni Reyes na may nalalaman siya sa mga pagpatay.

“You’re talking about killings in Guihulngan. Wala akong alam diyan. Only the PNP can answer your question,” ani Reyes sa mga magsasaka.

Dagdag ng alkalde na, ayon sa mga naririnig daw niya, ang mga namamaril ay pawang naka-bonet o naka-helmetkung kaya mahirap makapagtukoy ng pinaghihinalaan ang pulisya.

Ayon naman kay Guihulngan Police officer-in-charge Mario Baquiran na 44 na araw pa lamang siya sa kanyang destino at inaaral niya pa lamang ang mga naitalang pagpatay.

“It’s very hard for us in conducting these investigations because we could not just identify them,” ani ng hepe.

Ngunit ayon sa Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), tanging ang militar ang nagkakainteres na dahasin ang mga magsasaka dahil sa kanilang paglaban na magkaroon ng sariling lupa.

Ikinwento ni John Milton Lozande, Secretary General ng UMA, ang kaso ng brutal na pagpatay kina Endric and Rosalie Calago noong Mayo 2015 na namatay matapos pagbabarilin ang kanilang bahay ng mga pinaghihinalaang sundalo ng 11th Infantry Battalion.

“Merong mga circumstances, circumstantial happenings na nagtuturo sa militar sa pagpatay sa biktimang ito,” ani Lozande.

(Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Dagdag ng lider-magsasaka, mahihirapan ngang mag-imbestiga ang pulisya kung ang militar ang nasa likod ng mga pagpatay.

Siniguro ni Baquiran na ipakukulong niya maging ang mga sundalo kung mapatunayang ang mga ito ang naghahasik ng takot sa mamamayan ng Guihulngan/

Nagkasundo ang mga magsasaka at ang mga opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan na magsasagawa ng ibayong dayalogo upang maisiwalat ang iba pang kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa naturang bayan.

Kasali ang mga magsasaka, taong-simbahan, misya at iba pang sektong sa naturang ISM na may panawagang “Save Life, Save Guihulngan.” #

Sr. Pat: You have to do something

By April Burcer

“You have to do something,” Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS said during a solidarity forum held at the Ateneo de Manila University last June 29, Friday.

“You can’t stay numb when there are massive human rights abuses, injustices and poverty,” the missionary said at the forum entitled D’yandi, about the breakdown of the peace talks, injustices and human rights abuses plaguing the country.

Fox said that the challenge for church members is the determination what the role of the Church is when there are injustices, poverty and human rights abuses.

Fox has been the subject of personal tirades by President Rodrigo Duterte who infamously said that the nun’s God is stupid.

“We do have a little difference with the President about who God is,” the nun said, adding she is being forced to confine herself to church activities.

“They said missionaries like me should only be in barangays, teaching church doctrines, not be involved with the issues of society,” Fox said.

But the nun said she will continue her missionary work with the poor sectors of Philippine society.

“I cannot not be involved with the people who are oppressed, who are victims of injustice or of war.  My belief is (the poor people are) who God is,” she explained.

The missionary emphasized the need to be aware of the issues in the society, looking into the system and doing something about it.

“That’s what I thought I was doing. At this stage, the government doesn’t agree with this,” she said, referring to the attacks the government has been throwing at her.

Farmers and justice

Fox has been working with farmers and the poor for more than 27 years and she said she learned so much in the Philippines, especially the plight of the farmers.

“Why are industrious farmers still poor? Over the time I learned there were problems. There were people who said they own the land but farmers have been tilling that land for a long time so how can it be their land? The farm lands are far and the roads then are rough. How do you get your produce to the market? You have to sell to a trader at a loss,” she said.

She also worked with farmers of Hacienda Luisita and other missionaries on a fact-finding mission where some of her colleagues were arrested.

However, this did not stop Fox from continuing with her work.

“I believe that is part of our mission. How can we have peace, how can we have justice, if there’s no justice for the farmers?” she asked. #

 

Farmers challenge Duterte anew on first year of Kidapawan carnage

Peasant groups from all over the Philippines and their supporters marched to Mendiola in commemoration the first anniversary of the shooting of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City last March 31.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to show the same compassion to farmers killed by government troops as he usually does when visiting the wake of soldiers killed in encounters with the New People’s Army.

The groups also called for justice for all farmers killed under the Duterte government.

Read more

Justice, land reform still elusive 30 years after Mendiola massacre

ON January 22, 1987, farmers led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) marched to Mendiola to demand genuine agrarian reform from the newly-installed Corazon Aquino administration.

There, they were met by a multitude of police and military. While the farmers held a peaceful program, state forces proceeded to shoot at the protesters, leaving thirteen dead and at least fifty injured.

The massacre also led to the breakdown of the peace talks between the Aquino government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Agricultural workers were only calling for genuine agrarian reform, but the landlords and hacienderos responded with violence,” said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of Unyon ng Manggagawang Agrikultura (UMA). “Until now, there is no justice for the victims of the massacre.”

Ramos drew parallels between the 1987 Mendiola massacre and today’s farmers who still experience state violence as they continue to demand for their rights. “The situation has not changed greatly. The demand for genuine agrarian reform remains relevant to this day,” Ramos said.

The Mendiola massacre was investigated in succeeding years, but the government findings were inconclusive. Tessie Arjona, widow of a Mendiola massacre victim, now calls on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to reopen the case made against the perpetrators.

“We were only calling for land. Why did they have to use violence against us?” Arjona asked.”Pres. Duterte must put on trial the military and police officers who killed my husband and bring about justice, even after all these years,” she said.

 Little victories

Farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and other nearby areas held a protest Friday in Mendiola to commemorate the 30thanniversary of the massacre.

Rafael Mariano, secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and who was part of the Mendiola protest in 1987, assured the demonstrators that his agency would continue to assist farmers in their struggle for genuine land reform, in the face of abusive landlords and officials.

Since his appointment in 2016, Mariano has opened the national office of DAR to farmers, convened the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) for the first time in 10 years, and distributed hundreds of hectares of land to peasants. The issue of genuine land reform is also a major agenda in the ongoing peace talks between the Duterte administration and the NDFP.

These are little victories, Mariano said, but reminded that farmers need to continue their vigilance and action in their struggle for real land reform. “The best thing that peasants should still rely on is still their continued organized struggle for genuine agrarian reform,” Mariano said. # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)

Survivors reenact Luisita massacre on 12th anniversary

Survivors reenact the Hacienda Luisita massacre at the culmination of the three-day Cultural Caravan for Land, Justice in Peace commemorating the 12th anniversary of the carnage last November 15.

They also recounted the violent dispersal that killed seven strikers and injured scores of others.

Read more

Peasants demand justice for 4 massacred inside military camp

PEASANT groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and human rights organization Karapatan condemned the killing of four peasants inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija last September 3.

According to KMP, the farmers were taking part in a land cultivation activity inside the reservation Saturday morning when a helicopter landed and delivered rifles near their area.

That same afternoon, goons connected to a certain Col. Rigor began firing at the farmers. Read more

Land grabbing endangers PH agri productivity–experts

FOOD security activists challenged the Rodrigo Duterte government to end land grabbing activities against farmers and indigenous peoples in a conference last August 1 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The Philippine Network of Security Food Programmes, Inc. (PNSFP) presented cases of land grabbing throughout the country, as well as their campaigns and mass actions.

Agricultural land in the Philippines decreased by 2.785 million hectares from 5.4 million from 2002 to 2012 due to land grabbing and the subsequent conversion of agricultural lands for other uses, such as mining and Special Economic Zones,  PNSFP advocacy officer Sharlene Lopez said.

She added that the Philippines’ agricultural productivity, rural communities and environment are increasingly at risk if land grabbing continues.

According to PNFSP studies, many land grabbing victims were deceived by the promise of fortune into planting cash crops like rubber or oil palm.

Others were forcibly displaced by militarization or “projects” by either the local government or big businesses.

Many also end up having no choice but to work at cash crop plantations for less than the minimum wage.

A panel of government reactors from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the National Anti-Poverty Commission transition team, the Office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Food Security and HOR Committee on Agrarian Reform said their respective departments would try their best to return the farmlands and ancestral domains to the people.

Despite their assurances, however, Niklas Reese of the Philippine Bureau-Germany encouraged the participants to continue their advocacy against land grabbing.

“We have to be aware that the change of administration doesn’t change the nature of capitalism. We have to be vigilant; we have to be aware,” he said.

Reese added that the government should also to prosecute land grabbers.

“The role of social movements like this one is not just for demanding change, but accountability from the government as well,” Resse said. # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)