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State forces disrupt psycho-social activity for Canlaon church workers

By Visayas Today

SAN CARLOS CITY – State forces disrupted a psycho-social activity organized for church workers in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental in the wake of the March 30 killing of eight persons there by police during what was initially dubbed an “anti-crime operation” that authorities later admitted targeted alleged communist rebels.

The eight were among 14 persons in all – including two barangay captains in Manjuyod town – who died during “Oplan Sauron 2.0,” which police said was the continuation of the original Oplan Sauron of December 27, that saw six persons slain, mostly in Guihulngan City, also in Negros Oriental.

Police claimed the fatalities were all communist rebels who supposedly fought back when officers served search warrants on them. But the account of the families of the dead, many of whom did not know and lived far from each other, indicated they were executed in cold blood.

Among those killed in Canlaon were the chairman of a local farmers’ organization that authorities have openly tagged as a “legal front” of communist rebels, a law minister of the parish and two volunteer church workers.

Fr. Edwin Laude. (Visayas Today)

Fr. Edwin Laude, pastoral director of the San Carlos diocese, said the activity was held at Canlaon’s St. Joseph parish church on Holy Wednesday to address the possible trauma of 12 church workers who had responded and reached out to the families of the slain.

While the activity was going on, he said, state security forces “in full combat gear” arrived at the church, saying they were there to “observe” what was going on but later “asking for the names of the participants and wanting to take their photos.”

The security personnel then said that “the next time any similar activity was held, we would need to ask the permission of the provincial government because psycho-social activities were part of medical missions, which are among the activities that need the permission of (Negros Oriental) Governor (Roel) Degamo to be held.”

Laude said they saw the disruption of the psycho-social activity by the security forces as a “threat,” stressing that “we are not hiding anything.”

Nevertheless, he added, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza “has already asked the governor’s permission to assist the families” of those killed in Canlaon.

Laude also said that the communities where the March 30 victims lived and died still “live in fear” because of the continued presence of military and police personnel in combat gear, raising concerns the violence might be repeated.

He added that security forces, mainly in civilian clothes, also continue to be monitored around the Canlaon parish church.

“It is like martial law, only worse, because this is undeclared, subliminal, scarier,” Laude said, as he called the state security forces “praning” (paranoid).

At the same time, he said the church and the families of the victims are skeptical that police pledges of an “independent investigation” of the killings would amount to anything.

“People don’t see this” materializing, adding that the church’s request to “include the accounts of the victims’ families and of other witnesses” has so far been disregarded.

The only investigation whose findings the families are inclined to honor, said the priest, is that of the Commission on Human Rights.

14 farmers executed ‘Tokhang-style’ in Negros; Duterte’s MO 32 blamed

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in November 22 deploying more soldiers and police officers in Negros Island has seen its bloodiest result last weekend in the killing of 14 farmers in three locations.

Philippine National Police operatives killed eight peasants in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod, and two in Sta. Catalina town in separate but near simultaneous operations in Negros Oriental Province Saturday.

The Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights identified the eight Canlaon victims as Edgardo Avelino, 59, farmer and resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan, Chairperson of Hukom (Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon); Ismael Avelino, 53 habal-habal (utility motorcycle) driver a resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan and a member of Hukom; Melchor Pañares, 67, farmer, a resident of Sitio Tigbahi, Brgy. Bayog; Mario Pañares, 46, farmer (son of Melchor Pañares); Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, farmer, a resident of Sitio Manggata, Brgy. Masulog -1; Ricky Ricomuno, 28, farmer; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, farmer and a resident of Proper Brgy. Pula; and Genes Palmares, 54, farmer, a resident of Proper Brgy. Aquino.

In Sta. Catalina, habal-habal driver and peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada were reportedly killed.

In Manjuyod, among those killed were Velentin Acabal of Brgy. Kandabong and Sonny Palagtiw of Brgy. Pansiao, both barangay captains in their villages; Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.

Reports said 15 others were arrested, including local Gabriela leader Corazon Javier, who are now detained at the Canlaon City provincial police headquarters.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 that placed Negros Island as well as Eastern Visayas and Bicol under a state of emergency for the continuing militarization of communities as well as the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron of the PNP in the region.

Palabay said Oplan Sauron is being implemented alongside the government’s counterinsurgency program.

‘Tokhang-style’

Negros police director P/Col. Raul Tacaca said the victims were suspected communist rebels linked to alleged assassination plots against government soldiers and police officers.

Tacaca claimed those slain fought back against arresting teams from the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the PNP Special Action Force, regular police officers from various stations, and the Philippine Army.

In a press conference in Camp Crame Monday, PNP spokesperson P/Col. Bernard Banac echoed Tacaca’s claims and added the killings started as an implementation of search warrant for possible possession of firearms and explosive materials.

“We are sure that they really tried to shoot it out because our policemen will not use force if there is no threat to their lives,” Banac said.

“These were done by following the rules of engagement, respect on human rights and presumption of regularity,” he added,

But survivors of the police assault in Canlaon said the police arrived at about 2:30 in the morning, knocked once and kicked the doors open.

Victim Ismael Avelino’s wife, Leonora told human rights workers that all six police officers who assaulted their home “wore facemasks and others wore shades to cover their eyes.”

Victims’ survivors also said the nameplates on the police officers’ uniforms were covered.

Leonora said she and their four young children were ordered to lie face down and then later dragged outside of the house.

Next door, Edgardo Avelino’s household members were similarly forced to lie face down and were also dragged outside of the house.

Near simultaneously, they heard gunshots inside both houses. Nearly five hours later, at about seven o’clock in the morning, an ambulance came and Leonora’s husband was brought out of the house in a stretcher.

She found out later at the Canlaon District Hospital that they her husband Ismael was dead.

Edgardo, Hukom chairperson, was shot on his forehead, right cheek and upper torso.

In Manjuyog, survivors of Arupoc told human rights responders that the police planted a .38 caliber revolver beside his cadaver after he was killed by the police officers.

Calls for investigation

Various groups called for an immediate investigation on the incidents.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation on the incident…[W]e join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose diocese covers the affected towns, also demanded an investigation.

“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” Alminaza said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said March 30 was a dark day in the country’s history.

“[F]armers who feed the nation have become helpless targets of bullets from the police and military, in tokhang-style operations, forcibly entering the homes and playing the ‘nanlaban’ (fought back) scenario to justify the riddling of bullets to victims,” the group said.

“As the nation grieves, we add our voices to the call for justice for our farmers and all Filipinos who have suffered under the culture of impunity and fascism in our lands,” CPA added.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also condemned the killings and vowed to seek justice for the victims.

“State forces are on a rampage and activists and critics are in their crosshairs. We will not take this sitting down and we will seek justice for the victims and file charges against the policemen and their superiors who perpetrated this massacre,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao called for the scrapping of Duterte’s Memorandum No. 32, saying it is a death warrant on civilians.

The Commission on Human Rights said it has already ordered the regional sub-office of CHR-Region VII to investigate the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists call for justice for ‘Sagay 9’

Progressive groups staged a ‘Black Friday Protest’ last October 26 at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) calling for justice for the nine victims of the Sagay City massacre earlier this month.

A candle lightning ceremony was also held to pay tribute to the martyrs of the said massacre.

National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) chairperson Rolando Rillo said that the Rodrigo Duterte government and the military must held accountable for the said massacre.

The landlord Tolentino and Marañon family and their private army are behind the massacre based on the account of the survivors, Rillo added.

NFSW stressed that their land cultivation activities are efforts to alleviate the suffering of farm workers and their families through planting of food to eat especially during dry season.

NFSW said that sugar farm workers only receive a salary of about 300-400 pesos per week and 70 percent of the sugar land earlier awarded to land reform beneficiaries have been leased back to landlords due to the lack of support of the government.

Rillo also scored DAR secretary John Castrisciones for his irresponsible statements justifying the massacre “as self defense” and asked that the secretary be relieved from his post.

The group condemned the Philippine National Police for its attempt to arrest a minor to be used as a witness against the victims and his fellow massacre survivors. # (Video by Joseph Cuevas and Maricon Montajes)

 

NPA on the Sagay massacre: RPA, AFP and landlords did it

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Island said the culprits in the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City Saturday evening are “mercenaries” calling themselves the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) under the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA) unit stationed in Hacienda Mirasol, Brgy. Baterya, some 2 kilometers from the massacre site.

The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the AFP should  stop its “series of heinous lies” as they only exonerate the landlords and their goons who are behind the massacre.

The NPA said the RPA is a renegade band led by Stephen Paduano alias Lualhati Carapali and other “opportunist traitors” who broke away from the NPA during the 1990s.

“The RPA has since operated simultaneously as armed goons of Negros landlords and politicians and auxiliary force of the AFP,” the group, through its local spokesperson Juanito Magbanua, said.

Hacienda Nene (also known as Hacienda Barbara), the site of the massacre where nine farm workers, including two minors, were killed is part of the vast landholdings under the control of the family of incumbent Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr, and his son, Alfredo Marañon III, incumbent mayor of Sagay City, the NPA said.

Its landlords and leaseholders, the Tolentinos and Sumbincos, are related to the Marañons who control Sagay City for many decades, the Communist guerillas added.

“For many decades, Sagay has been Marañon territory. They have used the RPA and SCAA to terrorize and murder defenseless farmers who stand against their despotic reign,” Magbanua said in a statement, adding the Marañons’ offer of a P500,000-reward for the culprits’s identification is “an outrageously barefaced ploy to cover up their tracks.”

The NPA also scored Police Regional Office-6 Director Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office (NOcPPO) director SSupt. Rodolfo Castil and AFP Spokesperson Edgar Arevalo for what they call obvious attempts to gloss over state culpability.

The massacre was immediately downplayed by Castil as a “selective shooting” incident, pointing to some planted evidence of empty shells from a .38 caliber revolver and live shotgun ammunition to insinuate that an exchange of fire between perpetrators and victims transpired.

In Manila, police director general Oscar Albayalde and newly-appointed presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo echoed the police and military line the NPAs killed the victims.

“This shameless victim-blaming echoes the lies that the military and police fed the public to absolve themselves of the 2004 massacre of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, the biggest sugarcane estate in the country,” the NPA said.

‘Spreading disinformation’

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Negros Island also belied government accusations it was the NPA who attacked the farmers’ campout and pointed to the RPA as the culprits.

In  a statement, NDFP Negros Island spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the people of Negros know very well that the Sagay Massacre was “perpetrated by hired guns, armed by local landlords and emboldened by the climate of impunity and Duterte’s own pronouncements to stifle dissent and kill.”

Fernandez said the public must not be misled into believing that the RPA and the NPA are one and the same.

“The pseudo-revolutionary RPA is now actively integrated as auxiliary force of the AFP since their supposed ‘surrender’ and ‘peace pact’ with the government. The RPA is nothing but a horde of bandits serving as private army to big landlords such as Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr and the Marañon ruling dynasty who have lorded over Sagay City and the whole province of Negros Occidental for generations,” Fernandez said.

The former Catholic priest also condemned the police and the military for spreading disinformation, planting incriminating evidence against the victims and ridiculing their call for genuine land reform.

‘Pet parrot’

Meanwhile, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili accused Panelo of not only serving as the spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte but as national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s “pet parrot” as well.

Reacting to Panelo’s claims the nine victims were killed by the NPA to discredit the Duterte government, Agcaoili said Panelo, like Esperon, has no credibility to accuse the revolutionary movement.

“In 2006, Esperon attempted to put one over on UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston by submitting ‘documentary evidence’ purportedly showing that the Left was responsible for the rampant extrajudicial killings of activists under the Arroyo regime,” Agcaoili recalled.

“Alston dismissed the theory as ‘strikingly unconvincing’ and bearing ‘hallmarks of a fabrication’ which ‘cannot be taken as evidence of anything other than disinformation’,” he added.

“At least Esperon presented some bogus documents to Professor Alston to pass off as proof of his preposterous lies. Parrot Panelo just manages to be preposterous,” Agcaoili said.

‘On the side of the oppressed’

The NPA said the people are aware they are mainly a peasant army waging agrarian revolution to address the fundamental problem of landlessness and various other forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation prevailing in the vast Philippine countryside.

“The NPA is the fighting force of the oppressed masses; it does not carry out senseless killings like state troops and its paramilitary forces,” Gatmaitan said.

The NPA added that the massacre of the victims justify the revolution they have been waging for nearly five decades. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ang ika-sampu

Para sa siyam ng Sagay

 

Masdan ang mga sakadang nakayuko sa lupa

Ang mga yayat nilang katawa’y sanay

Tumiklop mula sa baywang

Tungo sa bagong ararong lupa

Upang magtanim o gumapas ng damo,

Magputol ng tubo o buhatin ang mga ito.

 

Sa halagang isang daang piso.

Kada araw. Araw-araw.

 

Kailangan nilang magsipag.

Ikababawas ng yaman ng mga panginoon

Kung sila’y babagal-bagal, hindi magpapagal.

Huwag na huwag silang magtatangka

Na bawiin ang lupa, ng mga gulay ay tamnan.

Mabibilis ang kanilang kamatayan.

 

Masdan ang nangyari sa siyam

Sa Hacienda Nene ay timbuwang

Silang sariling lupa at, susmaryosep, pagkain

Ay nangarap. Ang paglaban sa kanilang kahirapan

Ay hindi kailanman hahayaan,

Hinding-hindi papayagan.

 

Silang mga nangahas, nagnais na makabangon

Mula sa dantaong pagkakayuko. Sa pusikit na gabi’y niratrat

Tila siyam na darili ng mga kamay

Nakatiklop nang panawan ng buhay.

 

Subalit…

 

May nakalimutan ang maang-maangang panginoon

Sampu ang daliri sa kamay na nakayukom

Ang huli, ang hintuturo, kinakalabit ang gatilyo

Ihahayo na ang ganting punglo.

 

–8:51 n.u.

                                                   24 Oktubre 2018

                                                   Lungsod Quezon

Groups denounce Sagay massacre, abduction of farmer organizer

Human rights advocates held a protest action in front of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame in Quezon City to denounce Saturday’s massacre in Hacienda Nene, Sagay City in Negros Occidental and the abduction of farmer-organizer Joey Flores Sr. in Nueva Ecija last week.

Nine farmers and farm workers, including 2 minors, were killed by suspected SCAA/CAFGU members of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in the northern Negros island city.

The protesters said they suspect Armed Forces of the Philippines-backed paramilitary and goons carried out the brutal attack.

The protesters also assailed the abduction of Joey Torres Sr., Bayan Muna’s peasant organizer in Central Luzon last week they say was by the Philippine Army. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

NFSW: 172 farmer-activists killed under Duterte

The massacre of nine land reform beneficiaries in Sagay City, Negros Occidental Saturday night brought the number of killed farmer-activists to 172 under the Rodrigo Duterte regime, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said.

In condemning the massacre of the nine farmers, the groups blamed the Duterte government as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their repeated “red-baiting of farmers conducting land occupation activities” for the carnage.

“On April 20, 2018 Brigadier General Eliezer Losañes, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army, said that the land cultivation areas (LCA’s) being maintained by agricultural sugar workers and farmers in Negros Island are in fact New People’s Army (NPA) rebels communal farms,” UMA and NFSW secretary general John Milton Lozande said.

The NFSW earlier said that the goal of setting up land cultivation areas is to ward off the inevitable hunger brought by the “Tiempo Muerto” (dead season in the sugar industry) on properties covered by agrarian reform.

The lands subjected to farmers’ occupation remain undistributed and idle, NFSW said.

The farmers wanted to plant vegetables, banana, corn and root crops on these lands to feed their families when there is no work to be had during Tiempo Muerto, the group said.

The victims began their LCA in the 75 hectare hacienda that morning.

The nine casualties and the four survivors were resting in a farm hut when they were strafed by about 40 armed men believed to be Revolutionary Proletarian Army members working as hired goons of the landlords.

Initial reports said that the perpetrators subsequently fired at the heads of the victims at close range and even tried to burn their bodies.

Initial data culled from the area reveal that a certain Barbara Tolentino owns the hacienda and maintains a number of goons there.

Earlier, two leaders of NFSW were also killed in Sagay City.

Feudalism and death

Flora A. Jemola, chairperson of NFSW-Sagay City was killed on December 21, 2017 in an LCA area in Hacienda Susan. She died from 13 stab wounds by suspected elements of paramilitary forces reportedly under the command of the 12th IB of the Philippine Army.

This was followed by the killing of Ronald Manlanat, a member of a local chapter of NFSW in Hacienda Joefred on February 21, 2018, again by suspected paramilitaries under the 12th IB of the Philippine Army. The killers emptied a whole magazine of M16 bullets onto his head.

The Sagay Massacre last Saturday hikes to 45 the number of peasants killed in Negros Island under the Duterte regime.

NFSW said that of the 424,130 hectares of sugar lands in Negros Island, 34 percent are owned by only 1,860 big landlords with 50 hectares or more each.

Thirty percent of the land is owned by 6,820 big and small landlords with 10 to 49 hectares each.

Meanwhile, the majority of 53,320 farmers and agricultural workers only own 36 percent of the sugar lands, the group reported.

The NFSW estimates that 70 percent of sugar lands that have been distributed by the government through its various land reform schemes had been leased back to the landlords due mainly to lack of support services and non-land support facilities that forced Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries to lease their land.

“Sugar workers in haciendas (plantations), on the average, receive a measly P500 to P750 weekly wages all year round. Minimum wage is pegged at only P245 per day for the farm workers but in many haciendas, P80-P120 a day is still prevalent,” NFSW said.

Saturday’s massacre received widespread condemnation throughout the country and was even reported by media outfits abroad.

Widespread condemnation

Makabayan senatorial candidate and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares vehemently condemned the massacre of 9 NFSW members.

“That is really absurd because the issue of land is a legitimate issue. This is an attempt of the Duterte govt to quell any form of protest by crminalizng legitimate demands,” Colmenares said in a statement.

“We demand an immediate impartial probe on this massacre and we will not stop until justice has been served,” Colmenares  said.

Fellow senatorial candidate Erin Tañada said he is disheartened by the incident.

“This is not the first time that farmers have lost their lives trying to gain possession of the lands awarded to them, and I fear it won’t be the last. This is a persistent problem in the implementation of agrarian reform,” Tañada said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sa Mga Batang Tausug

Ni Kislap Alitaptap

 

Kanina
Wala nang oras ang programa
Ihabol ang mabuting balita
Pantanggal umay sa balitang
Baha, lunod, guho
Ulan, hambalos, bugso
Dumagundong ang tambol
Ng pananagumpay ng
Kaayusan laban sa karahasan

 

Kanina
Nabanggit kayo sa balita
At sa pagmamadali
Ng nagbabalita
Nakalimutan niyang
Kayo’y ipakilala
Na kayo ay mga bata
At hindi mga sandata
Ang lansones at mangostena
Na inyong dala-dala.

 

16 Setyembre 2018
Lungsod ng Baguio

Moro group blames Duterte for the massacre of Tausug evacuees

National minority group Suara Bangsamoro blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the massacre of seven Tausug civilians Friday in Patikul, Sulu by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“President Duterte’s all-out war policy is killing more and more of our Moro brothers and sisters. We are enraged that, to appease his Filipino soldiers, he would sacrifice the lives of Moro people by exonerating the perpetrators of the massacre and branding the victims as terrorists,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Succor Aladdin Aba said in a statement.

“We hold President Rodrigo Duterte responsible for the various human rights violations committed by the military against the Moro people in his all-out war directives against ‘terrorists’that uses massive ammunitions including aerial bombardment that target and punishes the community as a whole, and does not discriminate from the real bandits from the civilians,” Aba added.

According to the group, the victims were identified as “husbands of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Patikul who were shot by elements of Scout Rangers while harvesting mangosteen fruits in the area.”

Suara Bangsamoro said the victims were residents of Barangay Tambang and were aged 18 to 32.

The victims evacuated to Barangay Igasan in Patikul due to ongoing military operations in the area against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

According to their families, the victims were allowed by the military’s 55th Infantry Battalion to go to Sitio Tubig Bato, Barangay Kabuntakas to harvest mangosteen.

While they were in Kabuntakas, a firefight between the AFP and the Abu Sayaff and Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion happened.

The military mistook the seven as Abu Sayyaf members and were captured alive at about noontime Friday, Suara Bangsamoro said.

At five o’clock, however, their cadavers were taken by the AFP to the local police station.

In its press release Friday, the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP claimed the seven were part of a group of 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters who fired at its Task Group Panther and Scout Rangers troopers operating in the area.

Suara Bangsamoro called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident as well as other human rights violations against Moro communities.

“The AFP should be held accountable for this crime. This is not the first time that the AFP committed an atrocity against civilians while parading the victims as Abu Sayyaf bandits,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro said it blames AFP’s anti-terror operations and Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao for the attacks against civilians. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lanzones at Mangosteen (o sa pitong kabataang Tausug)

Ni Pia Montalban

 

Nanlalagkit ang dagta,

kahit anong tamis

ng kabataang hinog

at di huhulas

ang lilang lamog

mula sa mga nilagusan

ng pulbura’t tingga.

Pitong bungang pinitas,

dagta’y pula ang tagas…

Pitong kabataang mag-uuma

yakap-yakap mga kahon ng bunga,

ngayo’y ikakahon silang terorista—

A-bu sa-yaff!

 

Ngunit gumugulong sa kalsada

ang nabitawang mga bunga

at magsasalaysay lamang ito

ng tapat na mga tala.