9 farmers killed at Negros Occidental hacienda

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines (UPDATED) – At least 9 farmers were killed after they were fired upon by some 40 armed men at Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, here on Saturday night, October 20.

The fatalities, who included 4 women and 2 minors, belonged to the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).

Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr, director of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said the farmers had occupied the farm owned by a certain Carmen Tolentino on Saturday morning, after the owner had harvested her crops.

While the farmers were resting at their makeshift shelter, the gunmen shot them dead.

Police identified the victims as Eglicerio Villegas, Angelipe Arsenal, alias Pater, Dodong Laurencio, Morena Mendoza, Necnec Dumaguit, Bingbing Bantigue, 17-year-old Jomarie Ughayon Jr, and 17-year-old Marchtel Sumicad, all residents of Sagay City.

Castil said an investigation is underway.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr went to the Sagay City Police Station on Sunday, October 21, to check on the case.

The governor also announced a P500,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrators' arrest.

In a statement on Sunday, NFSW condemned the attack on its members, saying the brutal killing took place on the first night of land cultivation.

"Land cultivation area or bungkalan is our response to resonate our campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution. Farmers militantly occupy idle lands and collectively cultivate these lands in order to make it productive. Bungkalan reflects the failure of the government's land reform program and the landlords' refusal to distribute land to the tillers," NFSW said.

The group also said that landlords "deathly afraid of the unified strength of the farmers" use "brute force and even killings to attack farmers" who are asserting their rights.

"We vow to continue with much vigor and an even bolder resolve to fight for genuine land reform with free distribution of lands to farmers, the dismantling of haciendas, and end foreign ownership of lands," NFSW said. – Rappler.com