Murder of sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental

August 8, 2019 | 9:36am
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Murder of sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental
August 8, 2019

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura calls on the Department of Justice to drop what they say are trumped up multiple murder charges against National Federation of Sugar Workers members Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo over the Sagay killings.

They point out that other cases over the killing of 9 sugar workers in Sagay City in October 2018 have already been dropped. 

"Earlier, the DOJ dropped kidnapping and serious illegal detention trumped-up charges against National Union of People’s Lawyers' Kathy Panguban for lack of basis. An estranged biological father of a minor survivor of the Sagay massacre named Vic Pedaso filed the case against the NUPL lawyer with the support of the PNP," they say. 

April 15, 2019

The National Union of People's Lawyers have filed a motion with the National Prosecution Service for the assistant prosecution attorney handling a complaint that they filed against police officials and the estranged father of a witness in the Sagay killings.

The complaint, filed by the witness's mother with NUPL assistance, accuses respondents Vic Pedaso and several police officers of violating the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act and the Anti-Child Abuse Act for taking custody of the child and for allegedly forcing the child to "execute a false affidavit" on the October 2018 killings.

NUPL says the assistant prosecution attorney handling the case has shown "manifest bias and partiality against the complainant and her counsel."

November 8, 2018

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to "investigate more deeply" into the deaths of nine sugar workers killed in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.

Guevarra had ordered the NBI to look into the case, which the police and military have blamed on the New People's Army.

The NPA has condemned the killings and denied involvement, saying the nine were likely killed by militiamen or private goons hired by plantation owners.

Guevarra says the NBI has found "no clear indication yet as to who were the perpetrators."

October 27, 2018

The Police Regional Office in the Western Visayas has announced that it filed multiple murder charges against two alleged recruiters of the nine sugar workers killed in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last week, Sun.Star Bacolod reports.

Police had been pointing since early last week at how the victims were only recently recruited by farmers' group National Federation of Sugar Workers. They also said the NSFW's "core leadership" left the area shortly before the shooting in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City happened.

Police have also labelled the NFSW a "legal front" of communist rebels, a tag that the group rejects and has said seems to justify the deaths of nine of its members.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, has said the killings are part of the supposed communist-led "Red October" plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte from power.

October 24, 2018

Farmers' group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas says the Armed Forces of the Philippines' claim that the killing of sugar workers in Sagay City last Saturday is connected to the so-called "Red October" plot is "a litany of lies."

Authorities have been claiming that the New People's Army was behind the killings, and that the National Federation of Sugar Workers that the nine who died are members of is a "legal front" of the rebel group. 

"Anong akala ng AFP sa mga magsasaka? Walang sariling pag-iisip at pagpapasya? Pinagkaitan na nga ng lupa, minasaker na nga, iniinsulto pa ng AFP ang mga magsasaka," the group says.

(What does the AFP think of farmers? That they can't think for themselves? They were deprived of land, were massacred, and now the AFP is insulting these farmers)

October 23, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte's planned visit to Sagay City to visit the victims of a massacre in a sugarcane hacienda there has been called off due to bad weather.

October 23, 2018

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says he has already instructed the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the killing of nine sugar workers in Sagay City on Saturday evening.

Earlier Tuesday, he said the department "[will not] wait for the results of the Philippine National Police investigation. If we think that the circumstances require our immediate participation, we shall conduct our own investigation."

The announcement comes as farmers' groups reiterate their call for an independent probe, claiming the police have already prejudged the case.

October 23, 2018

New York-based rights observer Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Sagay Massacre shows that rights abuses are not limited to President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs.

"The Duterte administration needs to promptly, credibly, and impartially carry out an investigation and appropriately prosecute those responsible – and act to prevent further agrarian violence," HRW said.

October 22, 2018

Members of the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc call for a probe into the massacre of 9 sugarcane workers at the Hacienda Nene in Sagay City Negros Occidental, last Saturday evening.

The Makabayan bloc has filed House Resolution 2262, calling for an investigation.

The nine sugar workers slain were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers. Among the fatalities were three women and two minors.

October 22, 2018

Agrarian Reform Undersecretary David Erro says sources have told the Department of Agrarian Reform that a group called the Revolutionary Proletarian Army, a breakaway group from the New People's Army, were involved in the attack on sugar workers in Sagay City on Saturday night.

He says in a news conference that the group has since become a private armed group for some landowners. 

"Apparently, before the incident, itong mga so-called RPAs ay nagpupunta na sa lugar at may harassment na na ginagawa sa mga farmers na nag-ookupa," he says.

(Apparently, before the incident, these so-called RPAs went to the area and harassed the farmers who were occupying the land)

He adds that, according to the sources, the RPAs went back to the area Saturday night and fired into the air to scare off the farmers. When they did not, the armed men shot at the sugar workers.

He says a DAR team still has to verify the information.

Erro says, however, that because of the report that the RPA was involved, "wala pong kinalaman talaga ang Army at police dito (the Army and police have nothing to do with this)."

At the same news conference, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones stresses government personnel had nothing to do with the incident. "Hindi involved ang gobyerno rito," he says.

October 22, 2018

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde says communist rebels may be linked to the killings of the nine sugar workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.

"All indications suggest the participation of the CPP-NPA in pursuit of their 'Oplan Bungkalan at Okupasyon', a grand design to occupy private and government properties using their mass base and to create an untoward incident, then blame it on the government," he says in a press conference in Camp Crame on Monday.

He says investigators have been ordered to look at all angles and build an airtight case against the perpetrators.

According to earlier reports, the military had branded the 'bungkalan' activities by members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura as being used "for CPP-NPA-NDF related activities such as meetings, education and trainings of masses and consolidation area of logistics and resources in support to the armed group."

NFSW and UMA earlier on Monday asked for an independent investigation, saying they fear police will whitewash the murders of their members.

Police already have a person of interest in the murder of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on Saturday night, Chief Inspector Roberto Mansueto, city police chief says in a radio interview.

He says on DZMM TeleRadyo that the person of interest, not yet a suspect, is a former worker of Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon, where the killings happened.

According to reports, National Federation of Sugar Workers members entered and occupied the farm owned by a certain Carmen Tolentino a day after the owner harvested sugarcane for the season. 

The victims were resting in makeshift tents when around 40 armed men opened fire at about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to surviving NFSW members.

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