Senate minority bloc seeks probe of ‘Sagay 9’ massacre

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Minority senators have called for an immediate Senate investigation into the killings of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental not only to bring to justice the real masterminds but also to address the pitiful plight of ordinary farmers.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 929, they said the massacre of the nine sugarcane farmers, including two minors and four women, should prompt the government to take a hard look at the decades-old failure of the government’s agrarian reform program.

“The indiscriminate and thoughtless killing of the members of the impoverished and marginalized sectors of the society by those who circumvent the law, such as powerful landowners and local warlords, must be put to an end,” the resolution stated.

The resolution was filed by Senators Leila M. de Lima, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.

Last Oct. 20, at least nine members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) were killed by some 40 unidentified armed men men while they were preparing to cultivate land in Hacienda Nene in Bgy. Bulanon, Sagay City.

Local police authorities have pinpointed a certain Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo who allegedly recruited the nine sugarcane workers to the NFSW which the Philippine National Police accused of being a “legal front” of the communist rebels.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, tagged the killings of the sugarcane workers as part of the supposed communist-led “Red October” plot to oust Duterte from office.

Some reports indicate that private armies and paramilitary groups backed by the military and police were purportedly behind the series of intolerable assault and killings against peasant leaders in the Negros Islands.

Mr. Duterte has likewise blamed the New People’s Army for the massacre of nine farmers even as he warned those Communist-linked farmers against occupying idle lands with a threat that they would be shot at should they resist arrest.

Minority senators also pointed out that based on the initial fact-finding mission by human rights and leftist groups claimed that Hacienda Nene lessor Allan Simbingco and other identified landowners related to a big political clan were behind the massacre. “This (killing) is not an isolated case as it only reflects the prevailing situation in many farm lands around the country, necessitating immediate attention of government to address the plight of our Filipino farmers,” they said in the resolution.

“The death of the farmers should lead to a stronger program to implement social justice measures and protect our impoverished countrymen and women. It should not be used as a political device to impute criminal acts against critics of this administration without any factual basis,” they added.

According to them, apart from the official investigation and prosecution of the suspected perpetrators, the national government should also look at the implementation of Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

They explained that the effective implementation of the agrarian reform law is a means to undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands which should be given priority as mandated by the Constitution to promote and protect the rights to own and till lands.

“Aside from the pockets of investigations led by various agencies seeking accountability for the lives lost in this eventuality, the government should not only prosecute those responsible to the killings but should probe and swiftly respond to the primal causes of the continued landlessness of many Filipino farmers that shackle them and their families to the chains of poverty and social injustice,” they said.

The Philippines is considered a largely agrarian country where roughly 32 percent of the country’s land area – or 9.671 million hectares out of a total 30,000,000 hectares – are agricultural land.

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