Nine sugar workers slain in a hacienda in Negros Occidental were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers.
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9 sugar workers slain in Negros Occidental hacienda
(philstar.com) - October 21, 2018 - 1:03pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:10 p.m.) — At least nine sugar workers were killed on Saturday evening in an attack in a hacienda in Negros Occidental.

The STAR reported that the nine sugar workers slain were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). Among the fatalities were three women and two minors.

The strafing incident occurred at a hacienda in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental at around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said that about 40 armed men were involved in the attack.

Bacolod radio reports said the victims were engaged in a land cultivation area or 'bungkalan' activity in the hacienda owned by lawyer Barbara Tolentino

In a statement, NFSW condemned the massacre of the nine sugar farmers it described as “merciless.” It is calling for justice for the victims, whom they called the Sagay 9.

The group said the number of peasant leaders who have been in killed in Negros under the Duterte regime now totals to 45.

Former Rep. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna party-list), who is running for senator, condemned the killings, saying on his Twitter account that the farmers were "merely cultivating the land to ward off the inevitable hunger brought by the Tiempo Muerto." 

Tiempo Muerto or "dead season", refers to the time between the planting and harvesting of sugar cane, when there is little work available.

Rights group Karapatan, in a separate statement, called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an investigation into the killings.

"Karapatan strongly condemns this brutal and brazen incident, reflective of a kind of system that further strangles the victims of landlessness and poverty," the group also said.

'Bungkalan' on idle land

NFSW earlier Sunday confirmed that the killings happened on the first night of the land cultivation area they initiated in the hacienda.

The group explained that land cultivation area or bungkalan is their “response to resonate our campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution.”

“Farmers militantly occupy idle lands and collectively cultivate these lands in order to make it productive. 'Bungkalan' reflects the failure of the government’s land reform program and the landlords’ refusal to distribute land to the tillers,” the sugar workers’ group said.

The government carries out land acquisition and distribution through the Department of Agrarian Reform, atlhough the process of awarding the land to beneficaries and then installing them on the awarded land can take more than a decade due to legal and security challenges.

NFSW said that landlords of the “feudal hacienda system” in Negros have been exploiting farmers and farm workers and were shaken by the intensified land cultivation campaigns.

“They are deathly afraid of the unified strength of the farmers to collectively cultivate the land. They even result to the use of brute force and even killings in order to attack farmers who continue to assert and defend their democratic, civil, and political rights,” the group said.

The group lamented how Duterte’s regime has allegedly “made it a state policy to intimidate, harass, arrest, and even kill activists and critics instead of answering their legitimate demands.”

Despite this, the sugar workers’ group said it will remain unfazed and will not be cowered by the government’s attempt to silence them.

“We vow to continue with much vigor and an even bolder resolve to fight for genuine land reform with free distribution of lands to farmers, the dismantling of haciendas, and end foreign ownership of lands,” NFWS said. —Rosette Adel

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGAR WORKERS NEGROS OCCIDENTAL SUGAR FARMERS SUGAR INDUSTRY
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