Bayan Canada vehemently condemns the ruthless massacre of the nine farmers — three of them women and two minors — in Sagay City, Hacienda Nene, Negros Occidental last October 20. As if this were not enough, the killers set fire to the site, inflicting burns on the bodies of the three women. These heinous acts lay bare the Duterte regime’s real stance toward fundamental social change, in this case, genuine agrarian reform that addresses the centuries-old struggle of the peasants and farmworkers for land that is rightfully theirs. The vain attempts of its armed forces to pin the blame on the sugarworkers and their union, linking them to the New People’s Army, smacks of redbaiting while promoting the culture of impunity by filing charges against the union members and letting the real perpetrators go scot free.
A recent National Fact-Finding Mission composed of representatives of Salinlahi, Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, Karapatan National Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Gabriela Women’s Partylist and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) stated in its detailed report that this recent massacre comes on the heels of a string of extrajudicial killings of members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
- On December 21 last year, NFSW-Sagay chairperson Flora Gemola in Sagay’s Hacienda Susan was killed and her body burned by elements suspected to be members of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) “commonly known” to act as security forces for haciendas and are under the control of the local government of Sagay City.
- In February 22 this year, NFSW member Ronald Manlanat was shot in the head in Hacienda Joefred, also in Sagay.
- The gunmen likewise shot some Hacienda Nene massacre victims in the head and burned three of them after being killed.
These nine bring to a total 157 farmers killed under the Duterte regime, 45 of whom are from Negros alone. And these killings were also preceded by redbaiting tactics of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the same fashion as that now being done in Mindanao against the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and government critics and human rights defenders elsewhere. The AFP brands the NFSW as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA).
The NFSW had just started a land cultivation activity to plant vegetables to tide them over in between sugarcane cropping activities when the nine farmworkers were gunned down. The island of Negros, the Philippines’ sugar capital, has some of the poorest farming communities in the country and “land cultivation area or bungkalan” is the farmworkers’ response to amplify their campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution. Farmers militantly occupy idle lands and collectively cultivate these lands to make it productive. “Bungkalan reflects the failure of the government’s land reform program and the landlords’ refusal to distribute land to the tillers,” the NFSW said.
Between 2000 to 2004, under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government, 15 agrarian reform beneficiaries were killed and 57 wounded due to land conflicts in Negros Occidental. And while large areas are covered by the government’s comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP), the union says implementation is only at 40%. Further, sugar workers in haciendas (plantations), on the average, receive a P500 to P750 weekly wage all year round. “Minimum wage is pegged at only P245 per day for the farm workers but in many haciendas, P80-P120 a day is still prevalent,” an NFSW leader said. In Hacienda Nene, workers were paid on a piecemeal basis, according to how fast they could harvest and load sugarcane. “They get paid between P300 to P500 a week.”
Thus, when these workers raise their voices in protest, they are met with the goons of the big landlords backed up by the State’s might. The US-backed Duterte regime continues to violently break up workers’ unions and strikes, and to murder trade unionists and social activists supporting them. It also continues to kill peasants and indigenous people and force their mass evacuation, making way for corporate mining, logging, plantation and tourist enterprises nationwide.
Duterte’s promises of land to the tiller, ending contractualization, raising incomes of the workers and peasants and respect for the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and ancestral domain are then exposed for what they really are – a hoax. His refusal to continue the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) betrays his hostility to the people’s social and economic demands put forward in the latter’s draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).
Bayan Canada is therefore one with all democratic and freedom-loving organizations, groups and individuals in calling for justice for the nine (9) Sagay farmers and all victims of human rights violations. We call for a stop to the killings and demand an end to impunity now!
Implement genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization!
Onward with the struggle for a just and liberating peace! ###
Country Organizing Committee