The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) vehemently condemns the massacre of nine farmers, two of which were minors, in a strafing incident in Hacienda Nene, Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental on the night of October 20. Aside from being peppered with bullets, two bodies were also burned by the unindentified armed men. The victims were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and have just started their land cultivation (bungkalan) activity inside the 75-hectare hacienda on the morning of the incident.
The victims were Eglicerio Villegas, Angelipe Arsenal, Rene Laurencio, Marcelina Dumaguit, Rommel Bantigue, Marchtel Sumicad, Jomarie Ughayon Jr., Morena Mendoza, and Paterno Baron.
ASCENT slams the red-tagging currently being perpetrated by the police regarding this incident, that the land occupation is being initiated by the New People’s Army (NPA). The statement of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones that the murdered farmers were not agrarian reform beneficiaries, as if that justifies the brutal, bloody, and inhuman act against them . Land cultivation is a legitimate exercise of farmers’ rights to till agricultural lands in order to plant vegetables and root crops, especially during Tiempo Muerto or the Dead Season when hunger is prevalent among peasant families.
The plight of sugar workers is close to our heart, since ASCENT’s Senior Consultant, Benito Quilloy, and Project Staff, Rita Espinoza, also served as consultants of NFSW before they were illegally arrested last October 19, 2017 in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. They helped in the development of various socio-economic projects in land cultivation areas in many parts of Negros in order to improve the lives and livelihood of sugar workers.
The bloody massacre of Sagay 9 reflects the unjust situation faced by the peasant sector amidst the lack of a genuine agrarian reform in the country. They are the ones feeding the country but are being indiscriminately murdered by state security forces in order to protect landlords, capitalist big businesses, and Transnational Corporations. 172 peasants have already been killed under the Duterte administration.
ASCENT calls for an immediate and impartial investigation to ascertain the true perpetrators of this bloodbath to prevent any cover-up from occurring and to bring justice to the victims.