Nine persons were killed in a shooting incident in Negros Occidental on Saturday, a police official said on Sunday.
Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office director Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil told Super Radyo dzBB in an interview that the incident occurred in a barangay in Sagay City.
Castil: Siyam ang napaulat na nasawi sa nangyaring pamamaril.— DZBB Super Radyo (@dzbb) October 21, 2018
According to Police Superintendent Joem Malong, spokesperson of the Western Visayas regional police, the shooting occurred at about 9:45 p.m. Saturday in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon in Sagay City.
The victims were members of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Malong said.
They were identified by Malong as:
- Eglicerio Villegas, 36, resident of Barangay Bulanon
- Angelipe Arsenal, resident of Barangay Bulanon
- Alias Pater, resident of Barangay Plaridel, Sagay City
- Alias Dodong Laurencio, resident of Barangay Plaridel
- Alias Morena Mendoza, resident of Barangay Bulanon
- Alias Necnec Dumaguit
- Alias Bingbing Bantigue, resident of Barangay Plaridel
- Alias Jomarie Ughayon Jr., 17, resident of Purok Cesco, Barangay Rafaela Barrera, Sagay City
- Marchtel Sumicad, 17, resident of Purok Mahogany, Barangay Bulanon.
Castil, in a separate Balitanghali interview, said it is still uncertain whether the victims were longtime members of NFSW.
"Ayon sa family ng mga victims, itong mga victims na ito ay ni-recruit kahapon ng members ng NFSW. Itong mga ito, hindi pa natin masasabi na talagang members ng NFSW. Bagong recruit or hindi pa sila matagal sa NFSW, ayon sa family," he said.
Castil said according to witnesses, a group of armed men shot the victims.
He added that the victims allegedly occupied a plot of land.
"Ang lumalabas na motibo ay ang agawan sa lupa," Castil said.
According to a separate police report from Negros Occidental Provincial Police, the shooting occurred in Hacienda Nene in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon in Sagay City.
The suspects were "more or less forty unidentified armed men," the report read.
Police said they received a phone call from a concerned citizen about the incident.
Initial police investigation showed that the alleged members of the NFSW occupied the agricultural farm in Hacienda Nene owned by a Mrs. Carmen Tolentino on Saturday morning, a day after the owner of the farm harvested sugar cane.
The workers were allegedly resting when the armed men fired upon them. Some of the workers survived after fleeing the area.
Three of the workers who died were allegedly burned by the suspects.
Operatives from the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office and the Special Action Force are conducting scouring operation as of posting time.
Recovered from the site were 12 pieces of fired cartridge case of a 5.56 caliber firearm, seven pieces of fired cartridge case of a .45 caliber firearm, one homemade caliber .38 firearm with one live cartridge, and one piece fired cartridge case of a .38 caliber firearm.
The victims' bodies were brought to the FDN Memorial Chapel pending postmortem examination, police said.
The Palace condemned the killings, which it called "dastardly" and "extremely cruel."
"The Office of the President adheres to the principle that the right to life shall remain unthreatened by proprietary interests, and this extends to agrarian settings," Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan Cebu, which said the members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers were killed during a "bungkalan," placed the blame on the government.
"Anakbayan Cebu vehemently condemns the fascist and terrorist acts of the Duterte regime towards the tillers of the land who are constantly victimized by his ferocious all-out war," the group said in a post on Twitter on Sunday.
Details of the incident will be updated as the investigation in the area is still ongoing.— Anakbayan Cebu (@AnakbayanCEBU) October 21, 2018
Anakbayan Cebu vehemently condemns the fascist and terrorist acts of the Duterte regime towards the tillers of the land who are constantly victimized by his ferocious all-out war.
Rights group Karapatan also denounced the murders, saying that they were "reflective of a kind of system that further strangles the victims of landlessness and poverty."
Bayan Muna chairperson and former Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, laid the blame on the military and the government.
In a statement, Colmenares said that the military had earlier alleged that land cultivation areas (LCAs) being maintained by agricultural sugar workers and farmers in Negros were actually New People’s Army's (NPA) communal farms.
"That is really absurd because the issue of land is a legitimate issue. This is an attempt of the Duterte government to quell any form of protest by criminalizing legitimate demands," he said.
The statement also said that John Milton “Butch” Lozande, secretary general of both Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and the NFSW, also holds the government and the military to blame for the attack. — with Erwin Colcol/KG/BM, GMA News