“We call on all freedom-loving individuals and organizations to unite in holding the Duterte government accountable for turning Negros island into a killing field.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Wearing a black veil, Cedina Isugan joined members of people’s organizations in a protest action condemning the latest spate of killings in Negros island at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City, July 27.
Cedina’s husband Jesus was one of the six farmers killed during the first round of Operation Sauron in Negros on Dec. 27, 2018. At around 7:00 a.m., policemen and elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion and Philippine Air Force raided their house. Cedina said the policemen accused her husband of being a New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla. Jesus was shot to death, his body placed inside a sack and tossed by the road.
Cedina told Bulatlat her husband was not a NPA but a habal-habal (motorcycle) driver.
Now a widow at 26 years old, Cedina has to take care of her two children aged one year old and two years old.
Also at the protest action were Carmela Avelino and her 16-year-old daughter, still suffering from trauma after Edgardo was killed on March 30 inside their home in Panubigan village, Canlaon City. Edgardo was a farmer and chairman of Hugpong-Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon (Hukom), a local affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
Rights groups said the number of victims of extrajudicial killings in Negros has reached to 83 since 2017. In just four days, 13 civilians have been shot dead. In just one day, July 25, seven were killed.
Former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who hails from Bacolod, condemned what she called as “a war against unarmed civilians.”
“The brazen killing of the poor is enraging,” Taguiwalo said in Filipino during the protest action.
Taguiwalo dismissed the claim made by Col. Raul Tacaca, director of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office, that the NPA could be behind the killings.
“They were accusing the victims as NPA and now they’re claiming that the NPA is the one behind these killings,” Taguiwalo said.
In a statement, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) noted that Tacaca’s statement clashes with the statement made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In a report, 303rd Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo said they have received information that anti-communist vigilantes are assassinating members and supporters of the NPA.
UMA held the AFP and PNP accountable for the killings. The group said that the AFP and PNP’s Oplan Sauron 1 and 2 last December and March resulted in the death of 20 peasants. After President Duterte issued Memorandum Order 32, ordering the deployment of more troops in Negros, Bicol and Samar supposedly to curb lawless violence, UMA said the number of victims has gone up.
UMA also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of P3-million bounty for those behind the killing of four policemen, saying it “only aggravates the violence.” The four policemen werer killed in an NPA encounter last July 18 in Ayungon, Negros Oriental.
“The commander-in-chief himself provides motivation for death squads to continue the carnage,” the group said.
UMA called on “all freedom-loving individuals and organizations to unite in holding the Duterte government accountable for turning Negros island into a killing field.”
The groups called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to pay special attention to the carnage in Negros in its investigation of human rights violations throughout the country.