THE Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) has vowed to solve the case of the nine farmers who were brutally killed in Sagay City over the weekend, in one month.
Superintendent Glenn Provido, deputy provincial director for operations of Nocppo, said a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) headed by Nocppo Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr. was formed on Sunday to conduct a thorough probe on the killings.
Nine members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), including four women and two minors were slain by at least 10 armed men while they were taking a rest in a tent mounted in a vacant lot of a sugargane plantation at Barangay Bulanon on the night of October 20.
Provido said they are eyeing all possible angles on the incident including the participation of the communist rebels and a possible land dispute.
The farmers were said to have occupied a portion of a privately owned sugarcane plantation as part of their “Bungkalan” where farmers occupy idle lands to cultivate collectively in order to make it productive.
Provido said there are already persons of interest but he refused to elaborate while the investigation is ongoing.
“We are still gathering and receiving information from witnesses and those who can help in the investigation. We cannot give more details about the case in order not to hamper the investigation,” he added.
“We set a timeline to give immediate justice to the victims and to solve the case,” he said.
Provido said they are also open to accepting help from other government agencies to hasten the investigation.
On October 20, Eglicerio Villegas, 36 and his common-law wife Angelipe Arsenal, 47; Paterno Baron, 48; Rene Laurencio, 53 Marcelina Dumaguit, 56; Rommel Bantigue; Morena Mendoza; Jomarie Ughayon Jr., 16; and Marchtel Sumicad, 17, were “selectively shot” to death by not less than 10 unidentified men armed with high-powered firearms while they were taking a respite at their makeshift shelter at Hacienda Nene.
Three of them were partially burned while two others escaped the attack.
In a press release, policemen in the province assured that they are on top of the situation to identify and bring the suspects to justice.
”We remind the public to be responsible and discerning on every information they hear about the recent shooting incident in Sagay City. We rely solely our investigation on the statements from the witnesses, from credible sources of information, and from the testimony of the lone survivor in order to shed light on the incident and not from persons who are trying to create a different story over this tragedy,” the press release said.
”Recently, the NFSW and other groups have released speculative statements that did not happen during the commission of the crime. We must remind them about the implication of their actions,” it also said.
”These speculative statements will only distort the truth and are not beneficial to the ongoing investigation that we are conducting,” it stated.
Meanwhile, the Sagay City Police Station is asking the public to cooperate and report to authorities any information they may know to hasten the investigation.
Some members of the progressive groups in the province held a protest and noise barrage in Bacolod City on Monday to call for justice for the victims.
They marched from the Provincial Capitol Park and Lagoon to the office of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and culminated their protest at the Fountain of Justice, where they offered prayers and held a short program.
Michael de la Concepcion, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan–Negros, said they demand justice for the innocent lives of the farmers who were killed.
De la Concepcion also slammed the scheduled visit of President Rodrigo Duterte in Sagay City today, Tuesday, claiming that “the President cannot hide the demand of the farmers.”
One of the two survivors is asking the President to give justice to the death of his minor-son and other farmers.
On the other hand, DAR Secretary John Castriciones has also ordered the creation of a special task force to probe the incident.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), in a press statement Monday, said he directed his men that all angles should be explored in their investigation.
He told his men to gather solid pieces of evidence that will support an airtight case “which should be filed in the courts as soon as possible.”
Pursuit operations, composed of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP units continue.
Albayalde has tagged the communist New People’s Army to have the “grand design to occupy private and government property using their mass base and to create untoward incident then blame it on the government” echoing what Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a separate press conference.
Albayalde has alerted all police field units to conduct counter-actions against rebels who he said have stepped up series of armed hostilities.
“We believe the increased activity by the CPP-NPA, in the recent series of hostilities, could also be part of its “saber-rattling” tactics to project an image of strength to highlight the forthcoming CPP-NPA anniversary on December 26 and to bolster its extortion activities in the forthcoming election season next year, the chief PNP said.
Albayalde expressed his deepest sympathy to the bereaved families of the slain farmers.