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‘Stop the killings!’

“Hinding-hindi malulutas ng militarisasyon at pagpaslang sa mamamayan ang sigalot ngayon na nangyayari sa kanayunan. Stop the killings! Defend Negros! Resume peace talks!”—Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, University of the Philippines-Diliman

Drug ‘bagman’ and ‘whistleblower’ Ricky Serenio shot dead in Bacolod ambush

by Visayas Today

Ricky Serenio, the self-confessed drug syndicate bagman who blew the whistle on persons, including policemen and politicians, he claimed were on the take from the illegal trade, was ambushed and killed in Bacolod City Saturday afternoon, August 31.

Two wounded suspects were arrested soon after following a brief chase by police.

Serenio, who was on his way home to Pulupandan town south of Bacolod, had just turned onto the highway after picking up a friend in a subdivision when he was attacked by the motorcycle-riding killers.

He was rushed to the nearby Bacolod South Hospital but was declared dead on arrival from at least five gunshot wounds.

A passing police patrol chased the gunmen, resulting in a multi-vehicular accident. The suspects then tried to flee on foot.

They were identified as Joemar Dumip-ig, 30, of Barangay 14 in Bacolod, and Allan Bustamante, also 30, of Barangay Mabuhay 2 in Toboso town. Both had gunshot wounds in the leg and were taken to the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital for treatment.

Serenio gained notoriety when, shortly after his arrest in Talisay City in January 2017, he admitted being the “bagman” of the Berya drug syndicate, which operates in Western Visayas, and then started naming law enforcers, judges, politicians and even media practitioners he claimed received protection money from his gang.

Soon after, in April of the same year, Serenio’s brother Wilmar was gunned down. The next month, his father Wilfredo was also shot dead outside their home in Barangay Singcang-Airport.

Before Serenio was killed, a younger brother said he visited their home and had lunch there. #

Armed men ‘abduct,’ grill Himamaylan villagers – rights group

By Visayas Today

Armed men believed to be military personnel barged into a home in an upland village of Himamaylan City early Friday morning, August 30, allegedly handcuffing and blindfolding occupants, including high school students, and forcing them into a vehicle as they searched for purported communist rebels, a human rights group said.

The September 21 Movement Southern Negros said the gunmen forced their way into the home of farmer Delia dela Rosa Pacheco, 64, in Sitio Maliko-liko, Barangay Carabalan around 3 a.m.

They then rounded up Pacheco, her niece Aiza dela Rosa, 24, and two other relatives, one a Grade 11 student, the other in Grade 10, and a guest, Teresita Camanso, 46, a daycare worker from Sitio Lanap, Barangay Buenavista who was staying for the night after attending a seminar at the Himamaylan city hall.

The statement quoted Pacheco as saying they were all ordered to lie on the floor as the gunmen cuffed and blindfolded them. They were later taken to the vehicle.

Camanso told the human rights group that the gunmen asked her if she knew “Loida” and “Toti,” who they said were members of the New People’s Army who were supposedly staying in the house.

She was also grilled about the formation of an indigenous peoples’ organization in her village. 

The other occupants of the house were also interrogated. 

The September 21 Movement condemned the incident and urged vigilance against what it called the “creeping militarism and dictatorship in Negros.” #

Pamamaslang sa Negros, ipinanawagang itigil

Libo-libong mamamayan ang nagmartsa patungong Liwasang Bonifacio noong Martes, Agosto 20, upang kondenahin ang walang habas na pamamamaslang sa isla ng Negros mula noong inilabas ng gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte ang Memorandum No. 32 na anila’y may sala sa mga kamatayan.

Ipinag-utos ni Pangulong Duterte ang pagpapadala ng mas maraming sundalo sa Negros, gayundin ang pagsugpo sa New People’s Army sa isla. Subalit, ang mga magsasaka, bata, abogado, lingkod bayan, kababaihan, at iba pang mahihirap ang anila’y biktima ng militarisasyon.

‘One death is too many’

Artwork by Jose Mari Callueng

“One death is too many. In the case of Negros Island, since President Duterte took an oath to “…do justice to every man and consecrate myself (himself) to the service of the nation,” at least 87 lives have been taken. Half of these were killed when Duterte ordered the deployment of more military troops there by virtue of the Memorandum Order No. 32.

“This is the image of Negros Island now. Once an island known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” has become a killing field. It is bloodied. And the killing won’t stop very soon. What with the threats from the President to deploy even more troops there.

“It won’t stop unless we stop the murderer in Malacañang.”—Jose Mari Callueng, human rights defender

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Walang Tigil na Pamamaslang sa Negros

Panayam kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chair Emeritus ng International League of People’s Struggle, ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo hinggil sa extra-judicial killings sa isla ng Negros. Sa kasalukuyan ay mayroon nang 87 ang napatay sa isla simula ng maupo sa Malacanang si Pangulong Duterte.


NUJP-Bacolod chairperson tailed by ‘suspicious rider’

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)—Bacolod Chapter chairperson Marchel Espina reported being tailed by a “suspicious motorcycle rider” while on assignment in Negros Oriental Sunday afternoon, August 4.

While returning from Canlaon City, Espina’s driver told her that they were being followed by a motorcycle rider, “who was of medium build and wore a bonnet concealing his face, a black jacket and pants and with a backpack.”

Espina was pursuing stories about the killings of civilians in Negros Island believed to be the result of the government’s intensified counter-insurgency drive.

Espina reports for Rappler.

Espina said the rider had tailed them for almost 18 kilometers, from Biak Na Bato to Taburda in La Castellana town.

She quoted her driver as saying he blocked an attempt by the rider to overtake their rental car and drove as fast as he could until they eventually lost the tail.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen have been reported as the perpetrators of many killings in the entire island in the past weeks.

At least 21 civilians were killed in Negros Oriental in the past two weeks, many by motorcycle riders. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hindi Malayo ang Negros

By Luchie Maranan

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Sa islang naglalamay
Sa mga pinaslang.

Ang mapulang tilamsik at daloy 
Ay umaabot sa iyong kinaroroonan
Dahil maniwala ka’t hindi,
“Ang sakit ng kalingkingan
Ay dama ng buong katawan.”

Ang dilim ay malawak na inilalatag
Hanggang ang iyong 
Sariling liwanag ay di na mabanaag.
Nasa hangin ang pulbura ng salarin
Pagtutol ay pupulbusin.

Akala mo lang
Naumid na ang iyong paligid,
Ngunit dinig hanggang sa iyong isip
Ang hiyaw ng dumaraming
Tinutugis at inuusig.

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Ngunit ang Negros ay larawan
Ng iyong sariling bayan.

Hulyo 31, 2019

Bishop: ‘Peace talks, not martial law’

By Visayas Today

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza on Thursday, August 1, called for the rejection of martial law and renewed his call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

A Catholic priest said placing Negros under martial law on account of the recent wave of violence that has claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental will only worsen the situation.

Human righta groups also rejected the notion outright, predicting it would only lead to more human rights abuses.

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned he might invoke emergency powers, including martial law, to quell the violence he and security officials blame on communist rebels.

Upping the bounty to P5 million, “dead or laive,” for rebels who killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town on July 18, he also threatened to “replicate the atrocious acts” he attributed to the New People’s Army.

Reacting to Duterte’s threat, Alminaza pointed out that “martial law is neither the answer to the centuries-old agrarian problem nor to the decades of armed rebellion.”

He pointed to the Marcos dictatorship, which began when the country was placed under martilal law in 1972, saying this “did not lead to genuine peace; instead, it worsened the insurgency problem.”

“Even now, the heavens cry for justice as innocent people get killed in crossfires and mere suspects are summarily killed,” the bishop said. “Even now, without any formal declaration of martial law, government commandos and armed partisans are sowing fear and disregarding due process and the rule of law. Even now, human and civil rights are being trampled upon, leaving more and more widows and orphans in our midst.”

At the same time, he told the warring parties that “genuine peace can never be achieved through military adventurism and tit-for-tat conflict” but by addressing the “roots of social injustice.”

Fr. Chris Gonzales, Social Action head of the Bacolod diocese, said talk of martial law by Malacañang “saddens us.”

Should Duterte make good on this threat, Gonzales predicted “more oppression of the marginalized and those working for social justice.”

“We still believe poverty alleviation is the answer to our social woes,” Gonzales said. “Our people have suffered enough. We do not see how martial law can be the solution.”

Responding to the bloodshed. the four bishops of Negros have ordered church bells rung at 8 p.m. everyday “until the killings stop.”

“The church will continue to pray for peace, not the peace born of fear but born of freedom,” Gonzales said.

At the same time, he reminded the military and police, who many quarters suspect of being reaponsible for many of the killings, “your mandate is to protect the citizenry.”

In the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc and a group of 26 lawmakers, including most of Negros’, have separately sought inquiries into the killings.

The lawmakers noted that most of the vcitims – who counted local government officials, educators, a lawyer, among others – had been accused of being rebel supporters.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, warned that “threats by Duterte and his minions to declare martial law in Negros will significantly impact on the human rights situation in the island.”

Citing Mindanao, which has been under martial law since 2017, when fighting broke out in Marawi City, Palabay predicted “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, forced surrender, forcible evacuation and other rights violations that will wantonly be committed by State forces once martial law is declared in Negros.”

“We call on Negrenses and the Filipino people to oppose this spiralling descent to fullblown dictatorship in the country,” she said.

On the other hand, the Defend Negros coalition, demanded “peace and justice” instead of martial law.

“A militarist solution such as the declaration of martial law, and more tyrannical actions, would never be the solution to the alarming situation in Negros,” Defend Negros said.

“Justice and peace are what we seek for in this time of despair and darkness,” the coalition said. “While we mourn over the rising number of brutal deaths in Negros, we also rage against state policies that has sanctioned these attacks — Executive Order No. 70 and Memorandum Order No. 32, approved by President Duterte, also the concurrent Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Instead of threatening martial law, Defend Negros said government “must address the plight of landless farmers” and “work to give concrete solutions to the growing economic hardship and social injustice endured by Negrenses.” #

NPA ‘strictly abides by rules of war’ – CPP to HRW

By Visayas Today

Communist rebels offered assurances on Thursday, July 30, that their armed units “conscientiously study and abide by the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I,” which govern the conduct of war.

Earlier in the day, Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that responsibility for the string of killings that have claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental over the past two week “remains unclear.”

He nevertheless urged both the government and rebels to “take all necessary measures to end unlawful attacks, either by their forces or armed elements linked to them.”

State security forces and the New People’s Army have blamed each other for the killings.

The NPA accuses government forces of retaliating on civilians suspected of being rebel supporters following the death of four police intelligence officers in an ambush on July 18. The police accuse the rebels of torturing and then executing the four.

Adams reminded both parties that “killing civilians and captured combatants are war crimes.”

Responding to Adams, the CPP said it considered the attention HRW had given to the Negros killings “important” and agreed with his observation that the violence was “linked to the issues of land rights, poverty and injustice.”

It maintained that the four policemen “died in the course of a legitimate act of war” – an NPA ambush – “and were not tortured as falsely claimed by” President Rodrigo Duterte, and stressed that the rebels “do not have a hand in the successive killings of civilians.”

The CPP also said the deaths of seven persons on July 25, the bloodiest day for Negros Oriental, “fall into the pattern of coordinated operations of the police and military.”

Among those killed on that day were sibling educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa and Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan, who were shot dead in their respective homes in Guihulngan City, and Marlon Ocampo and his year-old son Marjon, who died when gunmen strafed their home in Sta. Catalina town.

“We believe that they are victims of death squads attached to the military and police in Negros island meant to intimidate the people against supporting the armed resistance of the NPA,” the CPP said. “Many of them have been previously publicly tagged as sympathizers of the NPA.” #