Protestors seek justice for slain peasant leader

AT LEAST 1,500 members of various progressive groups in Negros Occidental marched from the Provincial Capitol Lagoon to the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City on Sunday, January 22, to mark the 30th year of the Mendiola Massacre.

Rolando Rillo, chairperson of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), said they are taking two major concerns to the streets with the hope to get immediate actions from concerned agencies.

First, the protesters called for justice for peasant leader Alexander Ceballos, 54, who was killed by unidentified assailants near his house at Purok Tangke, Barangay Pandanon Silos in Murcia on Friday night.

"Three decades had passed, the 13 Mendiola Massacre victims still cry for justice that will never come," Rillo said, adding that Ceballos and other victims of killings are martyrs of the peasant movement in the country.

Family members and relatives of Ceballos, who is the regional council member of NFSW and district coordinator covering Bago City and the towns of Murcia and Salvador Benedicto, also joined the rally.

"We are asking justice for my husband," Quilina said, adding that they suspect a former government official of Salvador Benedicto is behind the killing.

For its part, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said the killing of Ceballos and other recent atrocities against peasants must be tackled by the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the ongoing peace negotiations.

"There can be no justice if the mercenary military and corrupt police forces still exist to protect the interest of landlords and land grabbers," its secretary general Danilo Ramos said.

According to the Murcia Municipal Police Station, Ceballos was shot to death by two unidentified men on a motorcycle at Purok Tangke, Barangay Pandanon Silos around 8:30 p.m.

Senior Inspector Hector Balbon, town police chief, said Ceballos was outside his house when the assailants, who wore bonnets fired at him.

Ceballos succumbed to head injuries.

Police recovered from the scene of the crime a bullet and a deformed slug of .9 mm caliber.

Balbon said they are eyeing land conflict as the motive, adding that the victim has been receiving death threats, based on the statement of his son.

Investigation is ongoing, he added.
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