BY RANIE AZUE and CYRUS GARDE
BACOLOD City – Nine sugar workers – two of them minors – were killed. Armed men gunned them down while they were resting in a makeshift bunker in Hacienda Nene, Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
Three of them who attempted to escape were set on fire, according to the Sagay City police station.
The sugar workers were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Island and doing a bungkalan (land cultivation) on a property owned by Carmen Tolentino but leased to Allan Subinco, police said.
NFSW has been conducting bungkalan since 2008 for members to survive the tiempo muerto or “dead season” in the sugar industry.
Sagay City police commander Chief Inspector Robert Mansueto identified the fatalities as Iglicerio Villegas, Angelipe Arsenal, Peter Ras, Dodong Laurenio, Morena Mendoza, Necnec Dumaguit, Bingbing Bantigue, and 17-year-olds Joemarie Ughayon Jr. and Martchel Sumicad.
They were all residents of Sagay City and among the 30 sugar workers who joined the bungkalan which started early Saturday morning.
Four of the sugar workers who survived the shooting told Panay News that about 40 armed men began firing at them around 9:30 p.m. that day.
But Mansueto refuted this, saying only eight to nine men were responsible for the shooting.
NFSW-Negros chairman Danilo “Roki” Rillo – who went to the crime scene with members of other militant groups like Karapatan-Negros and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – condemned the incident.
They criticized “the continuous landlessness of peasants and the manipulation of landlords in the province.”
Rillo believed the armed men were members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army who became mercenaries.
Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns also issued a statement “strongly” condemning the massacre.
“In this continued struggle of peasants and farm workers, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and private armies continue to harass, threaten and kill them,” said Salinlahi secretary-general Eule Rico Bonganay.
He added: “While the Duterte government continues to neglect agricultural support apart from setting aside demands for genuine land reform, they continue to import rice supply that kills the agricultural industry in the Philippines.”
Bonganay also lamented the “blatant human rights violations and repression” against peasant farmers./PN