Press Release
December 5, 2018

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

Launching of “Justice for Sagay Massacre” campaign an expression of assertion for justice – Karapatan

It has been more than a month since the gruesome massacre that claimed the lives of nine farm workers, eight of whom were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). The perpetrators, suspected members of a paramilitary group, strafed them with bullets as they were resting in their respective tents in a vacant lot in Hacienda Barbara, Sagay, Negros Occidental on the evening of October 20, 2018. These farmers and farm workers, along with other members of the NFSW, were conducting their bungkalan or land cultivation and occupation campaign necessitated by the current state of landlessness and the monopoly of hacienderos in the region.

“The Sagay 9 issue has been muddled with so many lies from a government scared to be exposed as champions and coddlers of private armies and landlords. The military brandished their fictional destabilization plot narrative while the police trained its harassment team against the lawyers and rights defenders aiding the family of victims and survivors of the incident. Despite their desperate efforts to dilute the issue, however, the root causes of landlessness and the dire situation of farmers and farmworkers in the country remained a neon sign staring authorities in the face. The President has rambled on, demonizing the bungkalan or land occupation and cultivation campaign being undertaken by peasants, oblivious that his government and this system itself have brought about these forms of resistance,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Yesterday, December 4, 2018, criminal charges of child abuse were filed against Sagay police chief, Chief Inspector Robert, Senior Police Officer 1 Julie Ann Diaz, and PO1 Christine Magpusaw. A complaint against Vic Pedaso, father of one of the witnesses, was also lodged at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violation of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act. The charges were filed by the mother of one of the witness-survivor of the massacre. Today, the Justice for Sagay Massacre Network was officially launched at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) chapel, composed of the victims’ families, advocates, and rights organizations. “We will undertake all available measure to pursue justice and accountability. This heinous crime will not go unpunished,” added Palabay.

The Karapatan official noted that “Probes into the incident by state forces proved futile: pointing fingers, turning the tables around the victims themselves, bringing back disproved conspiracy theories, and reducing the struggle of the poor farmers into nothing more than a mere disturbance to the daily business of the local landlords. As Duterte further criminalizes the people’s resistance, he has endangered more people by enabling private actors and state forces to violate people’s rights.”

“This case has clearly demonstrated how the government leans toward either blatant inaction or feigned action which puts blame on the victims and creates more damage to their families. We are supporting the filing of countercharges by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and the formation of the Justice for Sagay Massacre Network. This will send out a clear message to perpetrators and the Duterte government, that the victims’ families will not take this sitting down. We will stand alongside them in their quest for justice, fighting resolutely against a government that mutes all forms of calls for accountability and truth. We remain resolute in our commitment to exact accountability from the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. Justice for the victims of the Sagay massacre!” Palabay concluded.

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.