AFP hit for refusing to turn over remains of slain farmworkers

Summary execution-style killings, not a shootout

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slammed the AFP-PNP for refusing to release the remains of slain farmworkers in Baras, Rizal. As of December 24, the remains of Vilma Salabao and Carlito Zonio are still at the Antipolo Memorial Homes funeral parlor, more than a week after they were brutally killed by combined forces of the 2nd Infantry Division Philippine Army and Philippine National Police Region-4A. The remains of Wesley Obmerga and cousins Jonathan and Niño Alberga were claimed by their families after days of circuitous chase with the authorities. Pinatay na nga ang mga trabahador sa farm, pinahirapan pa ang mga pamilya nila na kunin ang mga bangkay. We condemn this double injustice perpetrated by state forces,” according to KMP.

The five farm workers were killed on December 17, 2020 in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan, Baras, Rizal in what the AFP claimed as a shoot-out between the New People’s Army and operatives of the AFP-PNP who were supposed to serve an arrest warrant for a certain Antonio Cule. This same modus of operation was used to kill the elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Antonio Topacio in Angono, Rizal last November 25.  

“The military insists that the five were NPA fighters killed in a shootout but the victims’ relatives and neighbors attest that they were just farmworkers tending the mango orchard farm. The farmworkers were brutally killed at 2 AM while they were sleeping. The manner and procedure of the said AFP-PNP operation bears the mark of summary execution-style killings of red-tagged individuals and suspected NPA fighters. Nanlaban daw kaya pinatay ayon sa pulis at militar. Ganito rin ang ginawa sa marami pang biktima ng pamamaslang,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos. Human rights group KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog is assisting the families of Salabao and Zonio in claiming the remains of the two victims.

Salabao is a cancer survivor and is staying in the mango farm with caretakers Obmerga and Zonio. Jonathan and Niño Alberga are working as guards of the said orchard. One minor from the village and several other individuals staying on the farm at the time of the raid and killings remain missing, according to KARAPATAN-ST. The 2nd ID deployed more troops to the village after the incident, causing further alarm to the already traumatized civilians residing near the mango farm.

“All year-round, there is no let-up in the attacks and killings of farmers,” says Ramos who noted that the five victims will add to the rising number of killed farmers, farmworkers, and land reform advocates. As of this writing, there were 295 farmers killed under the Duterte regime. ###

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