NYCHRP Condemns the Negros Farmers’ Massacre, Calls for an End to the Hacienda System and Demands Justice for the Sagay 9!

Reference: Glenn Ramirez, Organizational Development Chair, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), nychrp@gmail.com 

NYCHRP CONDEMNS THE NEGROS FARMERS’ MASSACRE, CALLS FOR AN END TO THE HACIENDA SYSTEM AND DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR THE SAGAY 9!

Sagay City, Negros Occidental – On October 21, at Hacienda Nene, a sugarcane plantation, in Sagay City, nine sugarcane workers were killed. The workers who were slain in this heinous incident are identified as follows:

Angelipe Arsenal
Alias Pater
Bingbing Bantigue
Dodong Laurencio
Eglicerio Villegas
Joemarie Ughayon, Jr.
Morena Mendoza
Marchtel Sumicad
Neknek Dumaguit

Sources report that the farmers were ambushed Saturday evening while eating dinner inside their tents by several armed men who opened fire. It was further reported that three bodies among those killed were mutilated and/or set on fire. Four others were also injured, two of whom were minors. We express our outrage as well toward the recent illegal arrest made on October 24 of one of the minors who had survived this atrocious massacre.

It is heart-wrenching and deplorable that so many farmers been brutally killed. October marks National Peasant’s Month in the Philippines, which is meant to be a time to commemorate the struggles of farmers and peasants. Why were these farmers killed, seemingly at random? There are still details that we do not yet know, and there is a lot of misinformation that appears to be going around.

As human rights advocates who fight for and uphold the rights of the people in the Philippines, we are skeptical at the lack of accurate information and abundance of misinformation regarding the massacre at Hacienda Nene. We know that to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people means to educate ourselves and others on the history of oppression of the people in the Philippines, the larger political climate, and the current situation of Philippine society, in addition to linking arms with those marginalized through our solidarity work.

We acknowledge that the peasants slain in this massacre were farmer-activists, part of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers, a local, left-leaning union of farmers. The farmworkers killed had been preparing their bungkalan, or the occupation of an empty plot as part of a Land Cultivation Area, a place to grew crops to ward off hunger and sustain their community through the dry season. The truth is that this recent massacre is not the first of its kind, even in recent times. This swath of killings now brings the number of farmer-activist deaths under the US-Duterte regime to an utterly devastating toll of 197. We are left to wonder, therefore: what could possibly justify the killing of people who were trying to feed their own? Is it a crime to be an advocate, as these farmworkers were, of genuine agrarian reform?

Land reform is at the heart of this issue. The massacre occurred while workers were occupying hacienda land. Haciendas, or tracts of land forcibly acquired for the production of export-oriented cash crops, are part of a feudal system implemented during the Spanish colonial era to deprive the people ownership of their land, thereby maintaining control over the people. Despite the era of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines ending 120 years ago, the country is clearly not free from the dominion of its past–haciendas still exist today. And like this most recent incident, we acknowledge that it is on hacienda land and because of haciendas that gross human rights violations have occurred. We remember the senseless violence of the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004, which the people still have not received justice for.

There are farmers who are fighting for land because they have yet to see effective policy change that offers true ownership of the land that they till. Across the country, these farmers are advocating for land reform because they are starving in the export-oriented, import-dependent economy that has been implemented in the Philippines. We see these deaths in the current political climate of the US-Duterte regime as related to the increased attacks on the peasants and the workers.

We mourn the lives of innocent lives that have been lost and vehemently condemn this senseless killing. We denounce the human rights violations that have occurred in haciendas and throughout the country, especially under the US-Duterte regime. In the true spirit of National Peasant’s Month and commemorating the struggle of the peasants, we call for an end to the system that continues to exploit, oppress, and kill the peasants. We demand genuine agrarian reform now. We call on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent, thorough, and unbiased investigation on the massacre. We stand in solidarity with the surviving victims in the Sagay massacre and their families in their call for justice.

We support National Federation of Sugar Workers, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Karapatan, and other human rights and people’s organizations as they begin their two-day National Fact Finding Mission on the massacre. Please contact nychrp@gmail.com if you are looking for information on how to support the fact finding mission and support justice for the Sagay 9.

JUSTICE FOR SAGAY 9!
STOP THE ATTACKS!
STOP KILLING FARMERS!

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