[A year after Negros 14 killings] Injustice and attacks persist amid pandemic in Negros island

Farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today demanded justice for the Negros 14, the farmer-victims of coordinated killings in various parts of Negros Oriental exactly a year ago. 

On March 30, 2019, elements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group killed a total of 14 farmers all over Negros Oriental – 8 in Canlaon, 4 in Manjuyod, and 2 in Sta. Catalina towns. State forces declared it as part of anti-criminal operations. Several eyewitnesses have however contested this, consistently narrating the common pattern of masked and armed men forcibly entering their homes at the dead of the night, ordering relatives to get out at gunpoint, hearing gunshots as victims left inside were shot, and then state forces planting guns as “evidence.” The uniformed men who dealt the attacks have not been dealt with up to now. 

“Not only is justice denied, we fear that new offenses are to continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ramos says. He explained that this appears to be the case since Memorandum Order No. (MO) 32 and Oplan Sauron persists alongside the Duterte government’s military-led anti-COVID response. The peasant leader points out that the killing of the Negros 14 last year was just the beginning of a series of killings and other attacks which characterized the implementation of MO 32 and Oplan Sauron. “Given the track record and consistency of state forces in abusing power and violating human rights, the militarist approach of the government in tackling COVID-19 is especially alarming for Negrenses,” the peasant leader notes.

As of March 28, there are eight confirmed COVID-19 cases and tens of thousands under monitoring all over Negros Island. Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson announced a 14-day lockdown of the province beginning today, March 30.  “We fear that the province-wide lockdown supposedly done to arrest the spread of COVID-19 may be abused by fascist state forces to arrest or kill farmers and their supporters instead,” Ramos comments.  

The farmers group also condemned the new trumped up charges of human trafficking filed against KMP Negros member Albert Dela Cerna, his daughter and National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) – Youth spokesperson Karina Dela Cerna, and his wife Karen Dela Cerna of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA). Albert and Karina are already detained since October last year in Bago City, Negros Occidental.

“That state forces can spare time and resources, amid a global pandemic, to rush the execution of such a dirty tactic against a poor farmer family, to make it in time before courts close due to the coming lockdown, is utterly appalling! The Dela Cernas’ only sin is daring to speak up and act to improve the lives of their fellow farmers!” Ramos asserts. 

Karina Dela Cerna even gave media interviews in Manila last year condemning the Negros 14 killings.

KMP reiterated its demands for justice to the Negros 14, the junking of MO32 and Oplan Sauron, and the reorientation of the government COVID-19 response towards a comprehensive public health approach. #

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