Church groups demand justice for massacred farmers

MANILA, Philippine – Members of church groups on Monday, April 8, condemned the bloody operations that led to the death of 14 people in Negros Oriental.

Both clergy and lay people from the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) demanded justice for the victims who were killed in simultaneous operations by the Philippine National Police (PNP).  

Berdugo ang estado na pumapaslang sa magsasaka na naghahagis ng binhi at natutulog sa gabi ngunit hindi na makabangon sa umaga (The state is an executioner who kills farmers who sow seeds and rest at night, only to be unable to rise in the morning),” Pastor Carleen Nomorosa of NCCP said.

Sacked provincial police chief Colonel Raul Tacaca claimed the victims resisted arrest, adding that they were suspected members of the New People’s Army. 

The police were reported to have worn bonnets and, according to family members, executed the victims mercilessly. The wife of Edgar Avelino, one of the victims, said the police did not present any search warrant when they barged into their house past midnight on March 30. 

They also described the operations as “brutal,” adding that the law enforcers also stole money and other possessions. (READ: Cops in bloody Negros Oriental operations took victims' money – relatives)

Farming is not a crime

The  incident is the latest in a string of violence against members of farming communities in Negros. In October 2018, 9 sugarcane farmers were killed inside Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental. (READ: Massacres, incidents of violence against farmers)  

Angie Ipong of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) slammed the non-stop violence against farmers in the Philippines.

Saan ang hustisya sa mga magsasaka na wala namang ginagawa kundi magtanim para kumain?” Ipong asked. “Wala naman silang ibang ginagawa kundi lumikha ng pagkain ng mga Filipino, kasalanan ba ang magtanim? 

(Where is the justice for farmers who do nothing but farm to be able to eat? They are not doing anything but creating food for Filipinos, is farming a crime?) 

Several human rights groups earlier called for an independent probe into the Negros killings, calling them “the handiwork of vicious butchers and men in uniform intoxicated by power.” The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has started its own investigation.

In a statement, PCPR general-secretary Nardy Sabino urged Filipinos to continue speaking out against violence under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“If we allow a bully President and war-monger military to have their way, many, many more poor Filipinos will be killed,” he said. –

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.