Human rights commission to investigate deaths of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental

Negros Oriental map. Photo: Google Maps
Negros Oriental map. Photo: Google Maps

The Philippines’ Commission of Human Rights (CHR) announced yesterday that they will investigate the killings of several farmers in different towns in Negros Oriental, which occurred on Saturday.

In a statement on its official website, the CHR said that it has instructed its office in Region VI, which covers the province, to investigate the case.

The statement says: “At this point, our interest is finding out the truth behind a police operation, which authorities claim to be meant to serve warrants of arrest, but resulted to 14 deaths of farmers and a cop said to be injured.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced on Saturday that 14 farmers, whom the PNP alleged were members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), were killed after they allegedly opened fire against the military and police, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The PNP said the farmers allegedly resisted arrest when they were about to be served warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, according to Rappler.

Col. Raul Tacaca, chief of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office also said that those who were killed were people who allegedly attacked and killed police officers and soldiers.

Those killed in Canloan City were identified as Edgardo Avelino, his younger brother Ismael Avelino, Melchor Pañares, his son Mario Pañares, Rogelio Ricomuno, his son Ricky Ricomuno, Gonzalo Rosales, and Genes Palmares.

Meanwhile, those killed in Sta. Catalina, a town in the same province, were Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada. Those killed in another town, Manjuyod, were Velentin Acabal, Sonny Palagtiw, Steve Arapoc, and Manulo Martin.

The killings occurred a day after the NPA’s 50th founding anniversary.

Those arrested include Corazon Javier of Gabriela. Photo: Karapatan/ABS-CBN News
Those arrested include Corazon Javier of Gabriela. Photo: Karapatan/ABS-CBN News

In interviews with human rights workers and with ABS-CBN News, the families of those killed said that the authorities arrived with their faces covered. They also allegedly ordered the farmers, who were said to be unarmed, to get out of their houses only for the authorities to shoot them dead. 

Meanwhile, 15 other individuals were arrested and the police are still searching for six other individuals who escaped, reported Journal Online.

The police said they allegedly recovered grenades, handguns, shotguns, ammunition, and subversive documents from the homes of those whom they arrested and killed, Inquirer reported.

Several critics have slammed the killings. Rep. Sarah Elago of the party-list group Kabataan said the operation against the farmers were done in the guise of “anti-criminality.”

She said in a Facebook post: “We, in Kabataan, STRONGLY condemn this murderous rampage! We call for an independent probe into this grave matter.”

Human rights group Karapatan, in a statement posted on its Facebook account, also condemned the killings of the farmers.

Their secretary general Cristina Palabay said: “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 … 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.”

Meanwhile, party-list group GABRIELA also slammed the killings and the arrest of farmers. One of those arrested, Corazon Javier, is a leader of GABRIELA’s chapter in Negros Oriental.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the group said that it “echoes the resounding condemnation of the massacre of 14 farmers and arrest of several others, including Gabriela leader in Negros Corazon Javier, in separate incidents in Negros Oriental on March 30.

“There is no justification for the brutal killing of unarmed peasants and wholesale arrest of civilians – not even the worn-out communist rebel tag which is now being used the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Negros Oriental to justify the atrocity.”

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