Negros Oriental farmers’ massacre adds to bloody history of extrajudicial killings

April 1, 2019 - 5:12 PM
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Kabataan Party-list candle lighting
Kabataan Party-list held a candle lighting ceremony for the 14 farmers who were killed in Negros Oriental. (Facebook/Kabataan Party-list)

The killing of fourteen farmers in Negros Oriental during the third anniversary of the Kidapawan Anniversary was met with outrage by advocates of the rights of farmers and peasants.

This was the second massacre of farmers during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte after the Sagay Massacre wherein nine sugarcane workers were killed in Negros Occidental in October 2018.

Based on reports, on March 31, eight of these were from Canlaon City, four from the municipality of Manjuyod and two from the municipality of Santa Catalina.

Karapatan Negros, a human rights group, identified one of the victims Edgardo Avelino as the leader of Hugpong Kusog Manguguma or HUKOM of the left-wing Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or KMP.

The rest who were killed in Canlaon City were Ismael Avelino, Avelino’s younger brother and a HUKOM member, Melchor Pañares, Mario Pañares, Rogelio Ricomuno, Ricky Ricomuno, Gonzalo Rosales and Genes Palmares.

Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada were the ones from Santa Catalina while those from Manjuyod were Velentin Acabal and Sonny Palagtiw, both barangay captains, Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.

Sr. Supt. Raul Tacaca, provincial police director, said sixteen more farmers were apprehended in the joint and military police operations in Tanjay and the municipalities of Canlaon, Manjuyod, Mabinay, Sta. Catalina and Siaton.

Tacaca said these farmers were believed to be members of the New People’s Army or NPA and were in violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

A total of 51 assorted firearms and explosives were reportedly confiscated after the sting.

Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde further said that those who died were those who fought back against the police.

The witnesses and the victims’ relatives, however, tell a different story.

They recalled in a report that the police officers came at night with their faces covered, ordered the family members to leave the area and shot the men who were then unarmed. Arapoc’s family also alleged no warrants were shown to them.

The Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo or SAKA noted that this incident was coincidental to the day of remembrance of the violent clash in Kidapawan city in Mindanao on April 1.

“Hustisya para sa mga biktima ng #KidapawanMassacre! Hustisya sa #Negros14, sa mga biktima ng #CanlaonMassacre, at sa lahat ng magsasakang biktima ng extra-judicial killings! Hustisya sa 200 magsasakang pinatay ng rehimeng Duterte dahil sa kanilang pakikibaka para sa lupa at hustisya!” it said on Facebook.

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More than 3,000 farmers figured in a violent clash with the Kidapawan police on April 1, 2016 after the former blocked the Davao-Cotabato Highway to demand for the government’s help with the ongoing drought that time.

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Sugar Workers or NFSW and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura or UMA Philippines criticizes in separate statements Oplan Sauron as it only targeted poor farmers, habal-habal drivers and peasant leaders, rather than suspected rebels in Negros Island

They said that this was similar to the deaths of six farmers in the town of Guihulngan and nearby provinces in 2018.

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Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Samar, and the Bicol region were placed under Memorandum Order No. 32 wherein additional troops were deployed for the suppression of lawless violence acts.

This measure came after a month of the tragic bombing of a night market in Davao city.