By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Thursday said he has directed the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate “more deeply” the Oct. 20 massacre of sugarcane workers in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
“NBI has submitted a progress report. I directed them to investigate more deeply,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a text message. He added that the report contained only the accounts of the witnesses.
“It’s basically a narration of what happened before, during, and after the attack, based on the accounts of witnesses. But (there’s) no clear indication yet as to who were the perpetrators,” Mr. Guevarra also said.
On Oct. 20, nine sugarcane farmers who were part of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers, including two minors and four women, were gunned down by around 40 unidentified armed men at Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
Mr. Guevarra on Oct. 23 directed the NBI to conduct its own investigation. On Thursday, he also instructed the NBI to include in its investigation the killing of Benjamin Ramos, a founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and a member of the Quick Response Team which assisted families of victims of the Sagay massacre.
Mr. Ramos was shot dead on Nov. 6 in Brgy. Kabankalan, Negros Occidental and is the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration.
On Wednesday, minority senators filed Resolution No. 929 urging a Senate inquiry into the massacre. They also cited the claim of both the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines linking the killings to the New People’s Army as part of its alleged “Red October” destabilization plot.
“(T)he deaths of the farmers should lead to a stronger program to implement social justice measures and protect our impoverished countrymen. It should not be used as a political device to impute criminal acts against critics of this administration without any factual basis,” the senators also said in the resolution.
“The government along with its officials must be reminded that the assurance of a just distribution of agricultural lands and the upholding of the right of farmers and regular farmworkers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the land they till, have been enshrined in our Constitution and entrenched in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court,” the resolutionadded.
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.