Slain sugar workers 'fooled by Joma Sison's ideals,' Duterte says

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Slain sugar workers 'fooled by Joma Sison's ideals,' Duterte says
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

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has blamed the communist New People's Army for the killing of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental on October 20, echoing the military's claim that the victims were used by the rebels to discredit the government.

Duterte said the nine farmers who were shot dead in Sagay late last month were "fooled" by the ideals of Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison. 

"That's how it is..the incident in Bacolod [sic]...The style of the communists is they kill their own comrades and blame it on the (government). The NPA are such fools," the president said during the distribution of land ownership certificates in Cagayan de Oro last Wednesday. 

The NPA has long condemned the killings and has pointed out it "is mainly a peasant army waging agrarian revolution." It said it does not commit "senseless killings"

The NPA has been fighting what it calls a protracted people's war since 1969 and has been focused on gathering support from peasants and farmers, which the CPP believes make up the majority of the people in the Philippines.

"I feel very sorry for them. They were fooled by Sison’s ideals," Duterte added. 

The National Federation of Sugar Workers has denied a police claim that it is a "legal front" for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA.

The nine sugar workers were killed by unidentified gunmen while preparing to cultivate land in Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City last Oct 20. The farmers had planned to cultivate an idle portion of the hacienda to plant crops for food during the lean season.

RELATED: A closer look at 'bungkalan', the supposedly sinister plot

Activist groups have accused hired goons in the killings, and have pointed out that the military had previously labeled land cultivation areas as communal farms that support the NPA.

The military, however, claimed the communists were behind the incident, saying the farmers were used as "bait" to embarass the government before international human rights bodies. The killings were supposedly part of a so-called "Red October" plot that the military has been floating since September.

"Why would you let yourself be fooled with that? Who is your God? Sison? Everything that you died for, the idea, your theology and politics, all of it came from Sison’s brain," Duterte said.

Although Sison founded the CPP in 1968, its ideology is based on the ideas and theories of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and of Mao Zedong, former chairman of the Communist Party of China. 

'Misunderstanding' within NFSW caused killings, Duterte claims

Duterte claimed the shooting happened because of a misunderstanding between the victims' recruiters and members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers.

"The communists are acting up now. The federation, the one where children were shot, they are the ones who brought with them new recruits. This means if they see a vacant lot, they occupy it. They forced some people to join their federation but the group said, 'Don’t bring us because there are already many of us here,'” he said. 

"They didn’t reach an understanding and so they shot them." 

Duterte's version of events does not coincide with what police and the military say may have happened. It also does not conform to the results of a separate fact-finding mission by national democratic groups that include rights group Karapatan.

The communist party on Thursday called Duterte's claim that the NPA was behind the Sagay killings a dismal lie. "He and his police and military officials cannot even get their storyline right," it also said.

NFSW has been calling for an independent investigation that would include the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights since October 22. It said the police had already prejudged the case.

RELATED: Sugar workers' group hits PNP for 'NPA legal front' tag

'Shoot them'

The president warned communist-linked farmers against occupying idle lands, saying he has ordered the police to shoot those who would resist arrest. 
"They might say, 'That’s a flat land. It’s large. Let’s occupy it.' Then they’ll tell us to fire at it with a cannon. Don’t steal and don’t threaten people. Do not intimidate...No. I will never allow that," Duterte said.  

"My order to the police is, 'Enter, pick them up. If they resist, force them to come with you to the station. If they resist while armed with a bolo, shoot them or else you will die because when they chop you up. You're dead," he added. 

Duterte said communists do not need to forcibly seize properties because he was willing to give them land. 

"To my brothers and sisters who are with the NPA, if you want land distribution, slow down and wait because we will claim even the privately-owned lands, but we will do it in accordance with the law," Duterte said. 
"Just give me some time. But I will warn you before I go home. Do not confiscate nor seize or occupy the lands that are already owned. Don’t do that, don’t steal lands that already have tenants," he added. 

Duterte said he was even ready to give communists land from the Ayala family if they want to. It was not clear whether the president was serious when he made the statement. 

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