Fact-finding team on death of ‘Negros 14’: State terrorism alive
CEBU CITY — “Stop the killings,” was the battle cry of peasant and human rights groups as they revealed Monday the results of their fact-finding mission on the death of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental last March 30.
Citing their investigation, Danilo Ramos, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said masked police officers in full combat gear barged into the victims’ houses, shot them to death, and planted fabricated evidence such as firearms and ammunitions.
“State terrorism is very much alive in Negros Island. We demand justice for all the victims of state-perpetrated violence and that the spate of killings and other forms of human rights violations across the country to stop,” the fact-finding team said in a press conference at the Center for Development, Education, and Training of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines here on Monday.
They hope policemen involved in the operations that led to the death of the 14 farmers will be charged.
Around 30 members of the groups staged a protest rally in front of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas after the press conference. Ramos said majority of human rights victims in Negros were farmers, who actively fought for their right to land.
“Farming is not a work of terror. Land is like life to them. That is why we condemn the mass killing of these 14 farmers,” he said.
Police officials earlier said the 14 individuals were subjects of search warrants as they are allegedly members or supporters of the New People’s Army – a claim denied by the families of those who died, and those who were arrested.
With the death of the 14 farmers, human rights groups called the operations a “massacre.”
Col. Raul Tacaca, the former director of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office, said those who were killed opened fire at arresting officers, who were serving search warrants for illegal firearms.
A police officer was also wounded during the incident, while 15 people, who were likewise subjects of search warrants, were arrested.
But Ramos said relatives of the victims claimed they were robbed by the police during the operations.
“Facts gathered during the mission can be used in legal case to bring every single barbaric perpetrator of the bloody carnage to justice,” said the groups led by Ramos.
They added that the joint police and military operations did not target actual criminals but executed innocent and civilian farmers in line with the counter-insurgency program of the government.
The Philippine National Police have already relieved the police chiefs of Manjuyod, Canlaon, and Sta. Catalina as well as Tacaca pending investigation to determine if proper police procedures were followed during the operations in Canlaon City, and Manjuyod and Santa Catalina towns last March 30.
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