By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
MINORITY SENATORS sought an “immediate” Senate investigation into the Oct. 20 massacre of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental and urged the government to look into the implementation of the agrarian reform program.
In a press statement dated Nov. 6, the senators said they filed Senate Resolution No. 929 saying the massacre of the nine farmers which included two minors and four women should compel the government to look into the “decades-old failure” of the agrarian reform program.
“The indiscriminate and thoughtless killing of the members of the impoverished and marginalized sectors of the society by those who circumvent the law, such as powerful landowners and local warlords, must be put to an end,” the resolution read in part.
The minority senators also noted a fact-finding mission by human rights and leftist groups which claimed that Hacienda Nene lessor Allan Simbingco and other landowners linked to a big political clan were behind the killings of the farmers.
“This (killing) is not an isolated case as it only reflects the prevailing situation in many farm lands around the country, necessitating immediate attention of government to address the plight of our Filipino farmers,” they stated in the resolution.
“The death of the farmers should lead to a stronger program to implement social justice measures and protect our impoverished countrymen and women. It should not be used as a political device to impute criminal acts against critics of this administration without any factual basis,” they added.
They also noted that the government should look into the implementation of Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law as its effective implementation is a way for a just distribution of agricultural lands which should be prioritized as stated in the Constitution.
“Aside from the pockets of investigations led by various agencies seeking accountability for the lives lost in this eventuality, the government should not only prosecute those responsible to the killings but should probe and swiftly respond to the primal causes of the continued landlessness of many Filipino farmers that shackle them and their families to the chains of poverty and social injustice,” they said.
On Oct. 20, nine farmers who were members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) were killed by around 40 unidentified armed men in Hacienda Nene in Brgy. Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
The senators also claimed local police authorities have identified a certain Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo who allegedly recruited the slain farmers to the NFSW which the Philippine National Police “accused of being a ‘legal front’ of the communist rebels.”
The resolution was filed by Senators Leila M. de Lima, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Risa N. Baraquel-Hontiveros, Francis N. Pangilinan, Antonio F. Trillanes IV, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.