22 October 2018

The Workers’ Assistance Center joins the community of labor and human rights advocates in the country in condemning to the strongest possible terms the massacre of farm workers in Barangay Sulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental. 

Nine farm workers who are members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) including 3 women and 2 children  were mercilessly strafed while resting in their makeshift shelter at about 9:00 in the evening October 20. Three of the fatalities were subsequently burned and planted with guns by the unknown assailants. 

Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines were both quick to premise the incident even before they start the investigation that communist rebels are possibly involved to discredit the government and its armed forces. But prior to the massacre, the farms workers who occupied the disputed idle land of Hacienda Nene to till were accused by the military as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and said that the NFSW is a communist legal front organization. Military also accused the farm workers that they occupied the disputed idle land to be used as part of rebels communal farms. It’s completely a shame how the PNP and the AFP prejudged the killing. 

This dastardly act and the number of fatalities in a single incident is quite alarming in the face of an all-out campaign of the government to link all political dissent and protest actions as communist-inspired to oust President Duterte in power. The demands for social justice even using all the possible peaceful actions allowed by law is now a provocative action against the government and the status quo that endanger the lives of all dissenters and activists, and making them an easy prey for those who holds power and guns with avowed impunity. 

The massacre of farm workers in Sagay is a scary preview for organized labor, political activists, human rights defenders,  civil libertarians, and ordinary people to how far the culture of impunity, anti-communist hysteria and red labeling, and a militarized bureaucracy run by retired generals will create havoc to the country’s democratic system and rule of law. 

We are one with the families of the victims in demanding the government for a speedy, impartial, and truthful investigation of the massacre and hastily bring the perpetrators before the bar of justice. Also, we condole with the surviving families of the victims, and to the NFSW.