Group seeks Congress, CHR probe of Sagay massacre

MANILA — A farmers' group is appealing to Congress and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the massacre of nine farm workers earlier this month in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) believes the investigation of Congress and the CHR can shed light on the massacre in Hacienda Nene and bring to justice perpetrators of this crime.

"This is not just about legal technicalities but the moral aspect," NFSW Secretary-General John Milton Lozande said in a forum in Quezon City on Wednesday.

Lozande said current investigations on the massacre seem to be "misleading the public" as to who are the real perpetrators of the crime.

The group said, though, it welcomes the start of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)'s probe into the massacre, "especially as it subpoenaed the owner of the hacienda."

Lozande said the NFSW is prepared to help Congress, CHR, and the NBI uncover the truth about the Sagay massacre.

"NFSW has names. We'll present these if there'll be an impartial investigation by such bodies," he said.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has condemned the massacre, assuring it does not tolerate violence in settling land disputes.

"The massacre is not a reflection of government's agrarian reform program," DAR Undersecretary Luis Meinardo Paรฑgulayan said at the forum. He said DAR will leave it to the law enforcers to identify the massacre's perpetrators.

In his Oct. 29, 2018 statement, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said the Western Visayas police had already filed a multiple murder case against two identified members of NFSW and five John Does "who are believed to be either direct participants or principals by indispensable cooperation in the shooting to death of nine Sagay sugarcane workers."

Albayalde said the father of the lone witness, a 14-year-old minor, is mulling to file kidnapping charges against some members of KARAPATAN, the group that took custody of the minor and his mother without his consent. The group is a national alliance of human rights organizations and advocates.

According to NFSW, however, the planned filing of kidnapping charge is allegedly "at the behest of PNP."

NFSW said the Sagay City Social Welfare and Development Office had turned over the custody of the minor to his mother on Oct. 25 at Sagay City Hall, in the presence of her lawyer, Katherine Panguban of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, "because he hardly knows his biological father, who abandoned his family when he was just four years old."

"How could Rogelio Arquillo and Rene Manlangit be charged by PNP for leading the nine killed into their deaths, when Rogelio's nephew Jomarie Ughayon and Rene's two cousins, Angelife Arsenal and Morena Cantemga, were part of the Sagay 9?" the group asked.

Last week, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said an investigation is in progress to establish the identities and motives of the massacre's perpetrators.

"Results of the initial investigation laid out three possible scenarios that may have led to the incident," Galvez said. "Authorities are looking at the involvement of other land claimants, the landowner’s private army, and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). What is already known is that the victims are all recruits of NFSW, a front organization of CPP-NPA. In fact, they were recruited after paying PHP500 for one hectare of land, less than two days before the incident," he said. (PNA)


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