SUSPECTED members of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked a farm workers' bunkhouse, killed two farmers, injured two others, and captured then released a paramilitary man in Barangay General Luna, Sagay City, Negros Occidental, early Sunday morning.
Police identified the fatalities as Jose Pios, 51, of Barangay Sta. Fe, and Dionesio Ebañez, 44, of Barangay Malasibog, all in the neighboring Escalante City.
Both victims are farmer-beneficiaries and roving village guards at General Luna's Sitio Buntod Aliwanay.
Wounded was another guard Jovito Lutrago, and Sunny Respondo, a member of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (Scaa) of the Philippine Army.
Chief Inspector Eduardo Corpuz, chief of Sagay City Police Station, said about 30 to 50 armed rebels attacked the area of the Aliwanay Farm Workers Association beneficiaries around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, May 22.
The rebels burned the two bunkhouses and mounted the NPA flag on the fence.
Scaa members Respondo and Alex Garcia, along with personnel of the Regional Public Safety Battalion-18, responded.
The rebels were able to hold Garcia captive, Corpuz said, but when they were retreating toward Escalante City, they released Garcia around 9 a.m.
Corpuz said they are looking at land dispute as the possible cause of the attack.
He said the group of the victims have acquired ownership of the land through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, but members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) are also claiming ownership.
The NFSW members are staying in an area adjacent to the farmers' bunkhouse, he said.
Corpuz said another angle could be related to Pios, one of the fatalities, who is possibly included in the NPA hitlist.
"But this is not confirmed. This has yet to be verified," he said.
Police recovered 300 bullet shells of M16, M14, and AK-47 rifles, 20 live cartridges of assorted rifles, and one M67 fragmentation grenade.