Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the unprecedented rise of killings in Negros Province which highlights the government’s inability to protect its own people and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the unabated spate of killings involving human rights workers, farmers and public officials in the province only proved that Mr. Duterte’s supposed anti-criminality campaign is a failure, if not a sham.
“Talagang nakakabahala na ang nagpapatuloy na insidente ng karahasan at patayan sa Negros, na imbes na mabigyan ng gobyerno ng hustisya ang karumal-dumal na sinapit ng mga biktima, ay nadadagdagan pa ang bilang ng mga pinapaslang,” she said.
“Nasaan ang ipinagmamalaki ni Ginoong Duterte na peace and order? Magta-tatlong taon na siya sa pwesto, pero lalo lang dumadami at lumulubha ang mga krimen, kung saan madalas na biktima ang mahihirap nating kababayan, pati na ang mga nagtatanggol sa kanilang karapatan,” she added.
In April alone, four individuals were killed in Negros Province, including Barangay San Pedro Village chief Samuel Ragay, human rights worker Bernardino Patigas on April 22 and former Association of Barangay Captains President Mark Garcia and village councilor Michael Garcia on April 25.
Ragay was reportedly shot dead in a broad daylight by unidentified armed men who barged into the barangay hall of San Pedro on April 11, while Patigas was gunned down by one of two men on a motorbike while he was driving his motorcycle on his way home to Barangay Washington on April 22.
Michael and Mark Garcia – whose deaths marked the 49th and 50th killings recorded in the Negros Province since Duterte assumed presidency – were killed in an ambush while on a campaign trail in the area.
“Amid all these deplorable incidents, what’s extremely appalling is how the Duterte administration is doing too little, if no action at all, to address the issues in the province that led to all these murders,” said the former justice secretary.
“The killings in Negros, as with different places in the Philippines, have become rampant in the country because of the reigning culture of impunity and violence encouraged by the madman in Malacañang,” she added.
De Lima reiterated her call for a Senate inquiry into the alarming spate of killings of farmers in the country, including the 14 farmers who were killed in a joint military and police operations in Negros Oriental last March 30.
“There is an urgent need to investigate this escalating trend and spate of killings victimizing our farmers, making it imperative for the government and law authorities and institutions to develop mechanisms which can hold these perpetrators accountable in order for justice and the rule of law to be restored and upheld throughout our lands,” she said. De Lima, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration’s human rights abuses, has filed Senate Resolution No. 1034 urging the appropriate Senate committee to investigate the escalating trend and spate of killings in Negros province.