Development workers condemn the massacre of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental

The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) strongly condemns the massacre of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental on Saturday, March 30. The farmers were killed in what the Philippine National Police claimed to be an anti-criminality campaign.

“We decry this massacre. We hold the Duterte administration and the PNP accountable for this crime against our farmers,” said ASCENT spokesperson Bishop Dindo Ranojo.

The incident in Canlaon happened Friday night, when more than 10 uniformed personnel entered the victims’ homes and claimed to have a search warrant but reportedly had none to show in actual. The Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office earlier said 8 were killed in Canlaon City, 4 in Majuyod town, and 2 in Sta. Catalina town, while 12 others were arrested.

Local police claimed they conducted search and arrest warrant operations against “hardcore criminals.” The farmers allegedly fired back against authorities, wounding a police officer.

The police said the fatalities were suspected members of the Special Partisan Unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) who resisted arrest during the service of search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The police operations came a day after the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, marked its 50th founding anniversary.

But Bishop Ranojo claimed the operations were targeted at activists. “Leaders of local peasant organizations long tagged by government forces as ‘legal fronts’ of the CPP were among those killed and arrested,” said Bishop Ranojo.

The victims were Ismael Avelino, Edgardo Avelino, Melchor Panares, Mario Panares, Rogelio Ricomuno, Ricky Ricomuno, Gonzalo Rosales, and Genes Palmares. All are residents of the area and were farmers.

Since March 29, these areas were reportedly militarized by elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

ASCENT attributed the series of killings to the continuing militarization of communities. “The PNP implemented the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron in the region, alongside the government’s counter-insurgency program among other repressive policies. Also, Memorandum Order No. 32, series of 2018, placed Eastern Visayas, Negros, and Bicol under a state of emergency,” said Bishop Ranojo.

At least 180 farmers have been killed during the Duterte administration, 40 of which were from Negros island. In October 2018, 9 sugarcane farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental were eating dinner when they were shot by 5-6 gunmen.

In December 2018, the simultaneous police operations in Negros island also killed 6 people while 31 were arrested.

“Development workers stand with our famers as we call for justice for the victims of the Negros Massacre and all the victims of state-sponsored violence and anti-people government policies,” ended Bishop Ranojo.

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AscentPH is a national alliance of development organizations determinedly working for the empowerment of the people through poverty alleviation and promoting and defending the right to development and other fundamental human rights and freedoms.

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