NDF-Negros identifies Sagay massacre suspects

AFTER AN INTENSIVE investigation, the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Negros identified several of the paramilitaries involved in the massacre of nine peasants in Hacienda Nene, Sagay last October 20. Fr. Frank Fernandez, spokesperson of National Democratic Front-Negros, named the suspects as Vito Lotrago, Eduardo Linugon, Rexi Robles, and alias Rako, former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army and now active members of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary of the AFP.

At the same time, the NPA-Northern Negros (Roselyn Pelle Command) mocked the P500,000 reward for the suspects provided by Alfredo Marañon Jr, governor of Negros Occidental, and his son Alfredo Marañon III, mayor of Sagay City. This reward is a smokescreen to hide their involvement in the massacre. In fact, the Marañons along with other landlords employ the SCAA to sow terror in Sagay City. SCAA crimes include the murder of peasant leaders Ronald Manlanat and Flora Jemola.

In 2003, the 90-hectare Hacienda Nene was placed under land reform and the Tolentino family was ordered to distribute it to the peasants. On 2013, the peasants were able to assert their right to till which led to the order of the Department of Agrarian Reform to distribute the land to 39 beneficiary-families. To evade the order, the Tolentinos “gave” 70 hectares to their drivers, housekeepers, and other “beneficiaries.” These “beneficiaries” then leased the lands to other landlords to be planted with sugarcane under the ariendo system.

After 15 years of just assertion, the peasants decided to collectively farm the land for food to temporarily alleviate their families’ hunger and poverty. They negotiated with the ariendadors to allow them to farm after harvesting sugarcane.

According to National Federation of Sugar Workers (NSFW) in Negros, the farmers have long been tilling idle lands to provide food for their families during Tiempo Muerto (period between harvesting and planting of sugarcane.) “Bungkalan” or collective farming campaigns have been actively conducted in the island since 2009.

Last April, the AFP attempted to illegalize collective farming by declaring that these are “activities” of the New People’s Army and associated it with the Red October tale. The NFSW strongly condemned these lies, including the biggest lie that the organization masterminded the massacre by using the peasants as “bait.” By repeatedly using contradictory accusations and a pack of lies, the objective of the AFP to hide the crimes of its troops is clear.

Meanwhile, NPA-Northern Negros condemned another case of human rights violation in the island. Residents of Purok Hoodam, Sitio Bideo in Barangay Codcod, San Carlos City were gravely abused and threatened by elements of the 79th IB last October 22. Thirteen residents were mauled and forced to confess as members of the NPA. Five of them were brought to the 79th IB camp in Bato, Sagay City. Almost all houses of the residents were ransacked by around 100 operating troopers.