The victims, who were all members of National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW), together with other landless farmers of Hacienda Nene had just begun their Land Cultivation Activity or ‘Bungkalan’ in the 75 hectares area of land. The said land owned by a certain Carmen Tolentino, is confirmed to be covered by government’s agrarian reform program yet remains to be undistributed.
It is as if not enough that farm workers in plantations, including those in Hacienda Nene, have been suffering from awful and slave-like conditions, receiving pay far below the living wage and became consistent targets of intimidations and red-tagging by state forces in order to delegitimize their struggles. This recent brutal killings of farmers just in time for the National Peasant Month and amidst soaring prices of rice and inflation merely reflects the Duterte administration’s apathy and atrocity towards farmers who toil to feed us everyday.
The nine massacred farm workers add up to the 163 peasants killed under Duterte administration. Undeniably, Duterte’s malicious and irresponsible tagging of peasants and workers’ organizations, human rights defenders, and dissenters as ‘communists’ has led to escalating attacks on their civil and political rights.
CTUHR also slammed the statement of Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, Chief of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, saying that one of the slain victims was armed with calibre .38. The labor group finds this statement ridiculous and an obvious attempt to use “tokhang-style” planting of evidence to turn the tables and justify the brutal attack.
The unfolding of events over the past week which includes the illegal arrest of labor and peasant organizers in separate incidents in Laguna and Nueva Ecija, abduction of two activists in Central Luzon and massacre of 9 sugar workers indicate how the government shamelessly disrespects and gravely violates human rights. For the people, these attacks are all but reason to tirelessly continue the struggle for just wages, dignified work and genuine land reform.
CTUHR adds its voice in demanding justice for Sagay 9 and supports independent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.###