9 people, including 2 minors, were massacred on Saturday night in a strafing and burning attack at the Hacienda Nene sugar plantation in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released a statement on Sunday condemning the brutal killings.
“The AFP strongly condemns and is deeply saddened by this violent incident that transpired in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental,” military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said to reporters.
The victims have been identified as Eglicerio Villegas, 36; Paterno Baron, 48; Rene “Dodong” Laurencio; Rannel “Bingbing” Bantigue, 41; Angelife Arsenal, 47; Morena Mendoza; and Marcelina “Necnec” Dumaguit. The bodies of Mendoza, Bantigue, and Dumaguit were allegedly burned by the assailants.
The two minors were identified as Jomarie Ughayon Jr., 16, and Marchtel Sumicad, 17.
All the victims were long-time workers at the plantation and alleged members of the National Federation of Sugarcane workers (NFSW). They had occupied the land to establish a land cultivation area (LCA) as part of the NFSW’s agrarian reform assertion campaign, Bungkalan. LCAs are cultivated plots where farmers can plant vegetables and crops to fight hunger during “tiempo muerto” or the lean season of the sugar industry.
The AFP encouraged the Philippine National Police to begin an impartial investigation into the incident.
Farmers at Hacienda Nene were reportedly paid on a piecemeal basis, meaning their compensation depended on how fast they could harvest and load sugarcane. Weekly salaries reportedly ranged from 300-500 pesos. Hacienda Nene has reportedly escaped agrarian reform because the land owner, Carmen Tolentino, has parceled the land under the names of seven people, including “her laundry woman, driver, and secretary”.
Malacañang, NFSW, the San Carlos Diocese under which is Sagay city, and local officials have also released statements condemning the attack.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reported deaths of sugar workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Sunday night.
Sagay Mayor Alfredo Maranon has offered a P250,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the killers.