Stop killings, Negros human rights group asks gov’t
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Israel Avelino, 22, traveled from Canlaon City in Negros Oriental province to Metro Manila and spoke before a network of human rights advocates on Saturday.
He narrated how heavily armed men barged into their house on March 30 while his family was asleep in Barangay Panubigan.
The armed men, whom they later learned were policemen, shot and killed his father, Edgardo. A few meters from Israel’s house, heavily armed policemen also shot and killed his uncle, Ismael, inside his house.
“We want nothing but justice,” he told the Inquirer on Sunday.
Edgardo and Ismael were among the 14 farmers killed in Canlaon City and the towns of Manjuyod and Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental in the coordinated military-backed police operations in March.
The operation was purportedly to serve search warrants for unlicensed firearms on suspected members or supporters of the New People’s Army.
The Philippine National Police and Malacañang earlier said the 14 residents died after they fought against a team of policemen and soldiers.
But the families of the slain farmers and witnesses belied the allegations.
Results of a fact-finding investigation by farmers and human rights groups showed that the residents were summarily executed.
Edgardo was chair of the farmers’ group, Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon, while Ismael was a member of the farmer’s organization, Nagahiusang Mag-uuma sa Panubigan.
On Saturday, Israel and other members of families of victims of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations on Negros Island, along with human rights advocates, formed Defend Negros, a nationwide network to demand justice.
The launching of the network at Bulwagang Pepe Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City was attended by representatives of religious organizations, the academe, artists and land reform advocates.
“We are outraged by the seemingly unending parade of bitter news about many Negrenses dying from massacres and assassinations,” the members of the network said in a unity statement.
“We stand in solidarity with Negrense farmers, farmworkers, fisherfolk, other working people and their organizations and advocates. We call on all fellow Filipinos to defend their rights to life, to free association, to free assembly and to seek redress for their legitimate grievances,” they said.
The network said it had recorded 66 victims of extrajudicial killings in Negros since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016.
Among the victims were human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. and Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, also a human rights worker.
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