According to the Department of Agrarian Reform, there were 89,794 hectares of land on Negros that had yet to be distributed in 2017.
PM, file photo
Palace: 'Full wrath of the law' vs Negros sugar workers' killers
(philstar.com) - October 22, 2018 - 8:26am

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Monday condemned the killing of nine sugar workers in a hacienda in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on Saturday night, as it called their murder a cruel act.

"Families of the victims of this cruel act can count on the government that it will enforce the full wrath of the law against its perpetrators," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo also said on his Twitter account.

The nine were reportedly killed by a group of around 40 men who shot at them while they were resting in a makeshift tent in Hacienda Nene in Purok Firetree, in Barangay Bulanon on Saturday night.

Some of the victims were shot in the head, as police investigators aired suspicions that they were shot from a distance. The bodies of three of the victims were allegedly burned, regional police said.

Members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers had conducted a "bungkalan", or land cultivation, in the lot after the owner had finished harvesting sugarcane.

The group explained Sunday that the bungkalan is their "response to resonate our campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution." During a 'bungkalan',"[f]armers militantly occupy idle lands and collectively cultivate these lands in order to make it productive," the group said. 

"'Bungkalan' reflects the failure of the government’s land reform program and the landlords’ refusal to distribute land to the tillers," it also said.

Negros Island has the biggest balance of undistributed landholdings in the country, according to a report on state-run Philippine News Agency in August 2017.

At the time, there were 89,794 hectares of land that had yet to be distributed. The Department of Agrarian Reform hoped to distribute 12,392 hectares of that land that year.

Police eye person of interest; groups seek independent probe

Police already have a person of interest in the murder, Chief Inspector Roberto Mansueto, city police chief said in a radio interview on Monday. He said on DZMM TeleRadyo that the person of interest, not yet a suspect, is a former worker of Hacienda Nene.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. has offered a P250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people behind the killings while Sagay City Mayor Mayor Alfredo Marañon III and the city government offered another P250,000 reward.

But NFSW and the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura are asking for an independent investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation, Commission on Human Rights, and civil society groups.

"We fear that the PNP is whitewashing the case, because Sagay police Chief Inspector Roberto Mansueto has said to the press that at least two of the victims may have fired back at their attackers, supposedly because there were spent pistol and shotgun casings in the area," the groups said in a press statement on Monday.

The group has pointed to "red tagging" by the military of farmers who engage in 'bungkalan'.

"Besides General Eliezer Losañes of the 303rd [Infantry Brigade]'s announcement on April 20, 2018 that land cultivation areas in Negros are New People’s Army rebels' communal farms, the military has also stated that these are also part of the Red October plot of the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army]," the groups said.

Losañes is quoted in a report in The Freeman in April saying 'bungkalan' areas "were 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 (NPA)."

AGRARIAN REFORM LAND DISPUTE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGAR WORKERS NEGROS OCCIDENTAL SAGAY CITY UNYON NG MGA MANGGAGAWA SA AGRIKULTURA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 8, 2018 - 6:51pm

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.

November 8, 2018 - 6:51pm

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 - 5:27pm

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 - 9:24pm

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 - 8:00pm

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 - 3:11pm

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.

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