By Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
THREE months after the brutal Negros 14 mass killings with no justice in sight and the continuing spate of killings in the island, Negrense individuals together with organizations representing farmers, workers, the urban poor, women, youth, church people, the media, artists, cultural workers, the academe and the science community have come together to form the Defend Negros, Stop the Attacks Network.
The network was launched Saturday, June 22, 2019, at the Bulwagang Ka Pepe, Commission on Human Rights Building to unite peace-loving Negrenses together with concerned citizens and groups to put a stop to the endless killings and political persecution in Negros island—where majority of the victims are peasants, agriworkers and human rights workers.
According to Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores, spokesperson of the network, “Our main aim is to defend Negros, especially its sugar workers and farmers against impunity from extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations by the Duterte regime.”
Since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, the body count in Negros has gone up to 66, most are peasants, fisherfolks and land reform advocates.
According to Flores, “The situation in Negros is sending a chilling effect to those who dare to assert their rights or strive to defend others. More are adding to the blood bath as other provinces covered by Memorandum Order (MO) 32 are experiencing a series of killings.”
MO 32 placed the island together with Samar and Bicol under a “state of lawlessness,” prompting the massive deployment of AFP troops in the areas and heavy militarization of communities.
Present at the launching were the kin of Negros 14 victims, Edgardo and Ismael Avelino, who were shot dead in their homes within earshot of their family. One of them was even dragged outside his house and kicked in the gut by one of the state forces before his father was mercilessly killed. He even had his earnings for his wedding stolen by the police.
Flores stated, “The Avelino brothers, like the other victims, are members of the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas who were simply helping other farmers with their land dispute cases. They did not deserve what happened to them. Their families, just like the rest who have lost their loved ones, have not only suffered heavy trauma but were left to fend for themselves.” Thus, the network committed itself to holding the government accountable for the massacres, extra-judicial killings, abductions and other state-sponsored violence.
The launching was joined by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Inday Espina-Varona, veteran journalist and winner of the Reporters Without Borders’ Prize for Independence at the 2018 Press Freedom Awards, and Sebastian Castro, model and social media personality, among others.