NBI steps in to probe massacre of Sagay farmers

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday, October 23, that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will step in to join investigations into the massacre of 9 farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.

“I have instructed the NBI to come in,” Guevarra said on Tuesday.

Nine farmers were killed Saturday night, October 20, when some 40 gunmen fired at them while they were resting in their tents at the Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon in Sagay City.

The police have put up a P500,000-reward for information that would lead to the arrest of the gunmen.

Guevarra was unable to say on Tuesday what the focus of the NBI would be, as police had begun its own investigtion of the incident. (READ: PNP probes person of interest in Negros farmers' slay)

The latest information to come from the police investigation was that the victims joined the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) "on that day" or the day they were killed.

Negros Occidental top cop Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr said the farmers’ recruiter left the victims at Hacienda Nene just before the bloodbath.

This led Western Visayas police director Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao to come up with the theory that the farmers might have been used as bait by the communists to incite hate against the government.

Bulalacao claimed NFSW is a "legal front of the New People’s Army.”

The police made the accusation as the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership held on to its suspicion of an impending communist-led "Red October" ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.



Meanwhile, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao said the claim of PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde that the New People's Army (NPA) was also involved in the "Bungkalan" agrarian reform assertion campaign had encouraged attacks on peasant activists.

Casilao said this was a clear case of red-tagging, especially against the NFSW, in the aftermath of the massacre in Sagay.

Casilao said Albayalde's statement that the NPA could be behind the killing was also a “clear show of attempting to absolve the perpetrators.”

“The police chief’s mind is upside down, and his statement is not working for the resolution of the case, in fact, actually encouraging more brutality against peasant activists who have been demanding land for many decades,” Casilao said in a statement sent to Rappler.

Casilao warned Albayalde against peddling baseless claims, especially pertaining to NSFW as being a legal front of communists.

“Albayalde should be working with the facts and not fabricated stories. If he really had basis, it should be addressed legally and disclose the circumstances of his allegations. If he is unable to do so, he is nothing but a 'fake news' peddler, such as those pro-government pages shut down by a social media network,” he added. (READ: Facebook removes pro-Duterte pages for violating policies)

Casilao also said it was premature to make statements that the incident might have been perpetrated by a private armed group, since the investigation was still ongoing.

“This regime is so unorganized or consciously clouding the issue, it could not even appoint an official entity to issue statements on the incident, especially with DAR claiming it is not an agrarian reform issue, when the victims are obviously poor and landless farm workers, and with the PNP imposing its anti-communist black propaganda, ultimately, it is uninterested in seeking truth and justice for the victims,” he said. With a report from Allan Nawal/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.