Sagay massacre shows rights abuses not limited to drug war — HRW

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Sagay massacre shows rights abuses not limited to drug war â HRW
Protesters shout slogans during a rally outside a police and a military camp to protest the weekend killings of nine farmers in Sagay city, Negros Occidental in central Philippines which has a history of bloody land feuds Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Gunmen killed nine members of a farmers' group who occupied part of a privately owned sugarcane plantation in an apparent land conflict in the central Philippines, police said. The victims were resting in a tent Saturday night when about 10 gunmen opened fire, police said.
AP / Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights abuses are not limited to President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs as shown in the murder of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, rights observer Human Rights Watch said.

The victims were resting in makeshift tents at Hacienda Nene in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon when around 40 men opened fire on Saturday evening.

HRW researcher Carlos Conde said the Duterte administration should investigate and prosecute those responsible for the incident and to prevent agrarian violence.

"Considerable international attention has rightly focused on the unending extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in President Rodrigo Duterte’s 'war on drugs.' But the Sagay Massacre highlights the fact that serious rights abuses in the Philippines are not limited to the 'drug war,'" Conde said in a dispatch issued Tuesday.

Conde noted that agrarian violence has been present in the country, "which is still grappling with the landlessness that has been blamed for massive poverty that in turn has fueled a half-century-long communist insurgency."

Countless political killings have been blamed to landowners, the New People's Army and government troops in Negros.

In 1985, 20 peasants and activists holding a protest march in Escalante City, Negros Occidental were killed when police and military personnel opened fire at them.

"Security forces in Negros have also targeted peasants, sugar workers, and labor activists in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign, often accusing them of being New People’s Army members," Conde said.

Sugar worker groups have insisted that their occupations of plantations in Negros were for their survival, countering claims of the military that the NPA has forced them to "provide logistics."

Malacañang has condemned the killing of the sugar workers in Sagay City, calling the 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.







As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 8, 2019 - 9:36am

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.

August 8, 2019 - 9:35am

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 - 3:09pm

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 - 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)

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