Senate hearing on Negros killings a 'farce'

THE National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) has expressed dismay over last Tuesday's (August 27) Senate hearing on the recent killings in Negros.

The group, in a statement, called the hearing led by Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa as a "farce" with little to no fanfare.

Ariel Casilao, convener of NFSW's Defend Negros Network, said the counter-insurgency policy to curb lawlessness has only resulted in doubling the number of extrajudicial killings aggravating the state of lawlessness in the island.

Casilao pointed out that ever since President Rodrigo Duterte issued Memorandum Order 32, which aims to increase the number of government forces in Negros, there have been 350 percent surge in the rate of killings there.

Even though Duterte already stated that he will not impose martial law in Negros, the group believed that the island is under it already as "it has welcomed 11 state-armed groups."

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who is also a convenor of the group, questioned the lack of presence of the surviving kin of the victims of "Oplan: Sauron."

"Why are there no representatives of the organizations from which the victims hail from? Are most of them not organized peasants, committed activists, human rights defenders?" she asked.

The NFSW said the Senate hearing is as empty as the Philippine National Police's (PNP) supposed pursuit of justice.

They pointed out that with neither families nor organizations of the victims of police brutality present, the probe is worse than a farce.

"We can only sneer at and condemn this brazen display of deception and injustice," they added.

On Tuesday, the PNP provided an update on their probe into the spate of violence that occurred in Negros Oriental from July 18 to July 28, which resulted in 21 deaths.

It noted that another four were recorded this month. Also, 17 of those killed were civilians while four were police officers.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who filed the Senate resolution to seek an investigation on the killings, also released a supposed "hit list" made by a group called the Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Kumunista (Kagubak), which reportedly opposes the New People's Army (NPA) and communist ideology.

"We have a so-called 'hit list' circulating and attributed to Kagubak," the senator pointed out.

Hontiveros said the list needs to be seriously looked into as one of those listed was lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was killed by riding-in-tandem suspects in Guihulngan City last month.

Five of the 15 people listed are already dead.

However, Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, who was also present at the hearing, concluded that the supposed list was election-related.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros said she believes that human rights are "obligation not just of the state, but also non-state actors."

"If the police are at fault then they have to be held liable," she stressed.


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