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Bishop demands probe into killing of 14 Negros farmers

Bishop demands probe into killing of 14 Negros farmers

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos. PHOTO FROM BP. ALMINAZA’S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

By Roy Lagarde

March 31, 2019

Manila, Philippines

A Catholic bishop wants full investigation into the weekend slaying of 14 persons, including a church lay minister, in Negros Oriental province.

Authorities said the 14 were killed while allegedly resisting to be searched for illegal firearms in separate operations in Canlaon City and in the towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina.

The joint army and police operations, they said, were part of the government’s campaign against loose firearms held by suspected members of the New People’s Army.

Human rights groups, however, deplored the killings saying that the fatalities were farmers and not communist rebels.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos demanded further investigation into the incident, amid claims of human rights violations.

“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” he said.

One the fatalities, he said, was a lay minister at Canlaon parish and its administrator “can vouch for his moral character”.

“Others were not even shown the supposed arrest papers. Some of those killed belonged to our Mission Station in Masulog,” Alminaza said.

The bishop appealed to the authorities to ensure due process and human rights are respected in the conduct of their duties.

“We don’t want to turn our beautiful island of Negros into a killing field!” he added.

The prelate also warned that human rights abuses committed by the government forces would only make them “best recruiters” for the underground movement.

“Please make sure you are not adding more reasons for our people to get disillusioned with our government and peacekeepers,” Alminaza added.

“But I believe there are still those among you with a lot of common sense, right values and principles, capable of creating avenues for dialogue as a way to lasting peace and not through violence and human rights violation,” he said.

On Oct. 20, 2018, still unidentified gunmen killed nine sugar farmers, including four women and two minors, at a hacienda in Sagay City’s Bulanon village.

Bishop Alminaza said the “tragic incident” only unmask the “ugly face” of the prevailing agrarian problem in Negros.

Bishop deplores killing of Negros sugar workers

Farmers protest the killing of nine sugar workers outside the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Bacolod City, October 22, 2018. PHOTO FROM NFSW FACEBOOK PAGE

By CBCP News

October 22, 2018

Manila, Philippines

A Catholic bishop has condemned the murder of nine sugar farmers in Negros Occidental province and joined in the call for justice for the victims.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the killings only unmask the long standing violence that farmers under hacienda system have been subjecfed to.

“The tragic incident reveals the ugly face of the prevailing agrarian problem in Negros that remains unresolved,” he said.

The victims were reportedly eating dinner inside the tents when they were shot by still unidentified gunmen at a hacienda in Sagay City’s Bulanon village on Saturday.

The attack claimed nine lives, including four women and two minors.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers, where the victims belong, said the attack occurred on the first night of the land cultivation area or “bungkalan” in the hacienda.

Under bungkalan, farm workers would occupy and collectively cultivate lands covered by the government’s agrarian reform program to help farmers survive the “dead season” in the sugar industry.

The group said that of the 424,130 hectares of sugar lands in Negros Island, 33.99% with 50 hectares or more are owned by only 1,860 big landlords, 30% with 10 to 50 hectares are owned by just 6,820 big and small landlords.

While the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was only at 40%, the NFSW estimates that majority of 53,320 farmers and agricultural workers only own 36% of the sugar lands.

And due to lack of support services, the progressive group estimates that 70% of sugar lands that have been distributed by the government had been leased.

The NFSW also noted how sugar workers in haciendas, on the average, get P80-P120 daily despite the minimum wage pegged at P245 per day.

“It is morally right and just for the sugar workers and peasants in Negros Occidental to undertake their Land Cultivation Areas,” said Alminaza.