Makabayan bloc seeks House probe into death of 14 Negros 'farmers'

MANILA. Members of the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives call for an investigation on the killing of 14 persons in Negros Oriental. (Photo from Bayan Muna Facebook page)

LAWMAKERS from the Makabayan bloc filed Wednesday, April 3, resolutions urging the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry into the March 30 "mass killing" of 14 persons in Negros Oriental and push for the scrapping of the government's Oplan Sauron.

In their resolutions, the Makabayan bloc, composed of Representatives Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis Party-list), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna), Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan Party-list), Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women's Party, and Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers Party-list, said the House committee on human rights must investigate the killing of the 14 persons in Negros Oriental due to several irregularities in the operations.

Authorities said the 14 persons killed during the Philippine National Police's (PNP) second Oplan Sauron in the first district of Negros Oriental were hitmen, supporters or members of the New People's Army (NPA). Police Regional Office-Central Visayas Director Debold Sinas said earlier that they fought it out with authorities.

At least 12 others were also arrested.

But human rights groups said that the slain and arrested persons were farmers and not members of the NPA.

Of the 14 persons, eight were killed in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod town, and two in Sta. Catalina.

The slain persons were identified as the following:

Killed in Canlaon City

1. Edgardo Avelino, 59, leader of Hugpong-Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon (Hukom), which is affiliated with Kapunongan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay'ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (Kaugmaon), the chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)

2. Ismael Avelino, brother of Edgardo, 53, a habal-habal driver and member of Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Panubigan (Namapa)

3. Melchor Pañares, 67

4. Mario Pañares, 46

5. Rogelio Ricomuno, 52

6. Rocky Ricomuno, 28

7. Genes Palmares, 54

8. Gonzalo Rosales, 47

Killed in Manjuyod

9. Valentin Acabal, village chief of Barangay Candabon

10. Sonny Palagtiw, village chief of Barangay Panciao

11. Steve Arapoc, 28, member of Kaugmaon

12. Manolo Martin

Killed in Sta. Catalina

13. Ano Enojo Rapada

14. Franklin Lariosa

The Makabayan bloc, in its resolutions, cited accounts of the victims' families and witnesses who said that the PNP personnel forcibly entered their houses and killed the farmers.

One of those accounts was that of Carmela, wife of Edgardo Avelino, who said that 40 to 60 elements of the PNP-Special Action Force arrived at their compound around 2 a.m. of March 30.

She said five of the armed intruders forcibly entered their house and she saw her son being confronted and dragged outside the house. She said her husband was also beaten. She said other family members were ordered to go outside the house and they heard three gunshots.

Another witness, Leonora, wife of Ismael Avelino, said that six armed men entered their house and ordered them at gunpoint to lie face down on the floor. They were then dragged outside of the house where they heard three gunshots.

It was only at the Canlaon District Hospital where the families learned that the victims died of gunshot wounds, said the Makabayan bloc.

The lawmakers also said that the families were threatened with arrest and some of them lost personal belongings like money and cellular phones.

They also called for the scrapping of the Oplan Sauron, which they said targets activists in Samar, Negros Island and Bicol.

This "internal security operation plan" of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines is causing "mass killings and political persecution of peasants and activists since December 2018 to March 2019," the group said.

"Various people's organizations condemned this measure, which is tantamount to reign of state terror or the mass killing of 20 activists and residents and political persecution of at least 28 activists and residents, reeks of gross systematic violation of human rights of the people," the Makabayan bloc added.

The PNP said Monday, April 1, that the operations in Negros Oriental last March 30 were legitimate and not a massacre.

PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said, though, that while they assume the regularity of the operation, the PNP-Internal Affairs Service will conduct investigation on the possible lapses of the policemen.

To give way to an impartial investigation, Albayalde ordered Tuesday, April 2, the relief of Negros Oriental Provincial Director Colonel Raul Tacaca, Canlaon City Police Chief Patricio Degay, Manjuyod Municipal Police Station Chief Kevin Roy Mamaradlo, and Santa Catalina Police Chief Michael Rubia. (LMY/SunStar Philippines)


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