At least ten peasants reported killed in a day as police operations plague Negros Oriental

Karapatan vehemently condemns the series of killings by the Philippine National Police in different parts of Negros today, March 30, 2019. According to initial reports, separate incidents of killings of at least ten peasants simultaneously occurred in Canlaon City and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental. In Canlaon City, eight residents were reportedly killed by elements of the Philippine National Police. In Sta. Catalina town, at least two peasant leaders were killed in similar operations. Karapatan is still verifying reports on four fatalities and at least 12 arrested local peasant leaders in Manjuyod town.
“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation on the incident. The Negros region has been a consistent target of escalating police and military operations, which have had severe and catastrophic consequences for the communities in the area. Ten killings in a day is the handiwork of vicious butchers and men-in-uniform intoxicated by power, thinking they can just do whatever they like without consequences. As we condole with the families of all those killed, we join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Initial reports have identified the eight victims killed in Canlaon City as Ismael Avelino, 53, Edgardo Avelino, 59, Melchor Panares, 67, Mario Panares, 46, Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, Ricky Ricomuno, 28, Gonzalo Rosales, 47, and Genes Palmares, 54. All are residents of the area and were farmers. In Sta. Catalina, habal-habal driver and peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada.
Since March 29, these areas were reportedly militarized by elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

The Karapatan official attributed the series of killings to the continuing militarization of communities, as well as the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron of the PNP in the region, implemented alongside the government’s counterinsurgency program. among other repressive policies. She also cited the Memorandum Order No. 32, series of 2018, which placed Eastern Visayas, Negros, and Bicol under a state of emergency.  

“We demand the scrapping of SEMPO, Memorandum Order No. 32, and the continuing military and police operations in communities. The repressive measures have complicitly allowed the killings of farmers in the region, communities which are already experiencing widespread poverty and lack of government support. A bloodbath is happening in Negros, victimizing farmers and mercilessly perpetrated by a government with no regard for human rights and due process,” added Palabay, citing recent killing of six persons in Negros Oriental in December 27, 2018, and the Sagay 9 massacre in November 2018.

“These killings remain a reminder that state security forces remain the number one human rights violator in the country. This is a State terrorism in full view. Farmers are facing lack of support from government, their organizations are likewise being targeted and their entire communities are being subjected to widespread killings. For our Filipino farmers, this government has put them in peril. The Duterte government is a danger to the Filipino people. We enjoin everyone to vehemently oppose and resist the brutal, militarist and anti-people policies from which these atrocities are fueled. We likewise join the call for justice and accountability,” concluded Palabay.