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Groups launch “Justice for Sagay Massacre” campaign

A network calling for justice for Sagay massacre victims was formed in Quezon City Wednesday (December 5) nearly two months after the incident.

Various groups led by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and the National Federation of Sugar Workers spearheaded the network that also include Karapatan, Promotion of Church for Peoples Response, Gabriela Womens Party and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

The network is part of the peasant sector’s #StopKillingFarmers campaign that calls for an independent investigation on the massacre.

Nine farm workers and land reform advocates were killed in Sagay City last October 20 when attacked by suspected members of the local Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA) armed group under the control and direction of local politicians.

The victims were conducting a farm tilling activity when attacked.

The network said it will disseminate results of impartial inquiries and fact-finding missions.

Local and international education campaigns on the plight of sugar workers in Hacienda Nene and other victims of peasant killings in Negros Island and other parts of the country shall also be disseminated, the network said. # (Joseph Cuevas)

‘Maaari na silang patayin?’

“Sabi ni DAR secretary Castriciones, ‘Sila pong namatay na siyam, hindi sila ang may-ari ng lupa at ng hacienda.’ Ang ibig sabihin ba nito ay maaari na silang patayin?”–Rita Baua, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

NDFP: Sagay massacre shows evils of hacienda system

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) condemned the massacre of nine peasants, including two minors, in Sagay City, Negros Occidental Saturday night.

The group tasked to co-craft with its government counterparts free land distribution programs for poor farmers blamed the failure of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to implement social justice through genuine agrarian reform.

“The incident underscores the evils of the hacienda system,” NDFP RWC-SER chairperson Juliet de Lima said in a statement.

Nine farmers, including two minors, were fired upon by around 40 armed men at Hacienda Nene, Sagay City. They were subsequently shot on their heads and three victims’s bodies were burned by their killers.

Members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, the victims started a land occupation campaign earlier to plant vegetables to tide them over the expected dead season of the sugarcane crops.

“As long as a handful of landlords monopolize land ownership and perpetuate their power through force, the Sagay 9 will not be the last victims of agrarian-related violence. Agrarian unrest will persist as the peasant masses continue to suffer from widespread poverty, high indebtedness, severe hunger and malnutrition,” de Lima added.

The NDFP RWC-SER also said President Rodrigo Duterte and the militarists in his cabinet have blood on their hands for terminating the peace negotiations that would have resulted in the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)’s section on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD).

“The draft ARRD, which was scheduled for signing last November before Duterte abruptly cancelled the peace talks provides for the free distribution of big landholdings and landed estates including lands targeted by the government for distribution, haciendas that are under the control of private individuals or entities, disputed lands with local agrarian reform and peasant struggles and lands already occupied by farmers through various forms of land cultivation and collective farming activities,” de Lima said.

“The break-up of land monopolies and free land distribution are the just, necessary and urgent corrective measures to the centuries-old social injustices suffered by the peasantry,” she added.

A day before the massacre, Duterte admitted in his speech that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led revolution would not go away within his lifetime.

“When I die, the NPA (New People’s Army) will still be here. When Joma Sison dies, the NPA will still be here,” Duterte said, referring to the CPP founder and NDFP chief political consultant.

Sison for his part said Duterte is correct in saying that the NPA will continue to exist even after the professor and his former student are gone “…if by implication he means that the root causes of the armed conflict must be addressed and solved by social, economic and political reforms.”

“It is up to him to end his position of having terminated the peace negotiations with Proclamation 360. The standing policy of the NDFP is to negotiate with the GRP anytime he is ready to resume the peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)

City councilor, lawyer, activists included in Negros town police’s poster of Reds

BACOLOD CITY — A councilor of the northern Negros Occidental city of Escalante, a lawyer who has longed worked with peasant and human rights groups, and a number of current and former leaders of activist groups were among more than 60 supposed communist rebels whose faces were printed on a police poster.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers issued an alert with a copy of the poster it said was being pinned up by the police force of the central Negros town of Moises Padilla.

The alert was released Monday, the same day human rights groups reported the arrest in Tarlac of Australian nun Patricia Fox, NDS, a volunteer with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, by Immigration officers.

At the top of the poster is the message, “CNN PERSONALITIES, if seen in the area, please text 09099191720.”

CNN is the acronym used by state security forces to refer to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

PNP poster accusing well-known personalities in Negros of being underground revolutionaries. (NFSW photo)

Among the legal personalities whose faces are on the poster are Karapatan-Negros secretary general Clarizza Singson, Zara Alvarez of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, UMA secretary general John Lozande,NFSW secretary general Christian Tuayon, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-Negros secretary general Benjamin Ramos, Escalante Councilor Bernardino Patigas, Julius Dagatan, Ronald Evidente, Ma Rina Amacio, Rogina Quilop, Lary Ocena and Anecita Rojo.

A number of them are also included in the list of alleged rebels that forms part of the Department of Justice’s petition to have the CPP and NPA proscribed as “terrorist organizations.”

On the other hand, Amihan, the National Federation of Peasant Women, said Fox was arrested around 3 p.m. and is currently detained at the Bureau of Immigration’s intelligence bureau.

The group said the nun, who joined a recent international solidarity and fact-finding mission in Mindanao that was reported harassed and hounded by state forces, could be deported.

Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS, in detention at the Bureau of Immigration. (Photo by Atty Ma Sol Taule)

Fox’ arrest came a day after Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists, was barred from entering the country in Cebu, where he was scheduled to attend the congress of Akbayan.

Filibeck, who visited the country last year as a member of a human rights fact-finding mission that criticized the government’s bloody war on drugs, was informed he was on a blacklist order and deported.

Karapatan: Attacks to sabotage talks?

ROME, Italy—The death of two activists and a New People’s Army (NPA) fighter in the Philippines since the ongoing round of formal talks began last January 19 may be the work of peace saboteurs, a human rights group said.

“Are these attacks efforts to sabotage the peace talks?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay asked in reaction to the killing of peasant leader Alexander Ceballos in Murcia, Negros Occidental and Veronico Lapsay Delamente in Claver, Surigao del Norte last January 20 as well as the military operation that killed an NPA fighter in Makilala, North Cotabato last January 21.

“The killing of Ceballos and Delamente are cases of human rights violations while the military operation in Makilala is a violation of the reciprocal ceasefire agreements,” Palabay said.

Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, was gunned down in his home in Barangay Pandan Silos, Murcia, Negros Occidental by a masked goon reportedly in the employ of former Don Salvador Benedicto town mayor Nehemias dela Cruz.

Delamente, a Mamanwa leader and member of Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong mga Organisasyon (Kasalo), was shot by unknown assailants in Punta Naga, Barangay Cagdianao and later died at a Surigao City hospital. He previously reported receiving death threats because of his anti-mining activities, Kasalo said.

Delamente was also the Katribu Party provincial coordinator since 2010.

In Makilala, 39th Infantry Battallion soldiers of the Philippine Army pursued an NPA unit in Barangay Biangan that resulted in an hour long gunfight and the death of a Red fighter, 33-year old Rojet Ranara.

Eight soldiers were also killed, NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command Spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said.

“The war dogs of the 39th IB and the entire AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) cannot wash their hands clean of this flagrant violation of their own ceasefire. Sitio Lokatong in Barangay Biangan is a remote area that their presence can only mean an offensive operation against the NPA,” Sanchez said.

“They fool no one by claiming that their combat operation was merely in response to reports by local authorities of the presence of lawless groups, for the entire day, they actively maneuvered to engage the evading unit of the NPA,” he added.

Sanchez said the Rodrigo Duterte government should know it is the insincerity of the AFP that is the biggest impediment to the quest for just and lasting peace.

Palabay said the killings and the military operations are attacks on the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Is the AFP laying the ground for further human rights violations akin to those committed under Oplan Bayanihan? Its Oplan Kapayapaan in its first three weeks is nothing but the same counter-insurgency program that unleashes war against the people and fomenting un-peace,” Palabay said.

Asked for comment, GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III said they still have to receive an official notice from the NDFP.

“We cannot turn a deaf ear to these reports, but such incidents should not negatively affect the peace process,” Bello said.

“In fact, such incidents should compel both parties to accelerate the peace talks to its logical conclusion for a just and lasting peace,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image by Breakaway Media)