DAVAO CITY, Philippines — After a year seeking for justice for the nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental who were shot and even burned, justice remain elusive not only to the victims and their families but also to the poor and landless farmers.

Former Anakpawis Party-list Representative and current National Vice-Chairperson of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao said that “the public should not deter in calling for accountability as well as in condemning the Duterte government for its complacency in resolving the case. It had no plan to bring justice to the victims.”

Casilao added that the fact President Rodrigo Duterte order the newly appointed Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido as a deputy city director for operations of the Bacolod City Police Office to “kill everybody” is an outright spit in the face of poor people of Negros asserting their right to land and livelihood. “We fear that killings would further escalate as Duterte gave a direct ‘kill order’,” he said.

‘Communist hotspot’

Casilao said that the Duterte government categorized the Negros island as a “communist hotspot” to justify the massive deployment of military and police forces. Activists in the island have also become victims to extra-judicial killings since 2017.

Almost two weeks after the Sagay massacre, lawyer Benjamin Ramos of National Union of People’s Lawyers-Negros was gunned down in Kabankalan City. A month later, Palace released Memorandum Order 32 that targets activists in Negros, Samar and Bicol regions.

Instead of these crimes being resolved, the killings only intensified.

On December 2018, six peasants and activists were killed in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and in March 30, 14 peasants were killed in Canlaon City and other towns. The government legitimized the “mass killings” in its Synchronized Enhanced Police Management Operations (SEMPO) under the local counter-insurgency program Oplan Sauron.

“From the beginning, the police had no illusion of solving the ‘Sagay massacre,’ as they are themselves the killers in the island, they are directed by the notorious police official Debold Sinas,” he said.

Sinas was the Police Regional Office-7 director Brigadier General that carried out SEMPO and Oplan Sauron in the island. He is now the Philippine National Police National Capital Region Office Chief, after the abrupt reshuffling due to Albayalde’s resignation.

“Duterte promotes ‘mass killers, like Sinas and Espenido to carry out brutal anti-insurgency campaign dressed as anti-criminality and anti-drugs ops,” he bared.

“The real killers of the 9 Sagay farm workers are out there, its only a matter of time that this murderers will kill again. Justice for the Sagay Massacre victims is clearly will not be by the efforts of the police, but by the people’s movement whose mass actions will hold not just the perpetrators, but the whole list on the echelon of killing machine which is topped by Duterte,” he said.

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