The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) doubts that an armed encounter happened at Hacienda Nene in Sagay, Negros Occidental and led to the death of nine sugarcane farmers on Saturday, October 20.
CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline De Quia said that, while their investigation is still premature, they have ruled out armed encounter due to the multiple stab wounds found in the corpses and the fact that the perpetrators burned some of the bodies.
“It runs contrary to an alleged encounter na mag-inflict ng deliberate and conscious injuries sa iba, maliban sa gunfire,” De Quia explained during DZRH’s Isyu.
Police reports said that a caliber .38 gun and an empty magazine of the said firearm were found in the crime scene, which raised the possibility that the victims fought back against their attackers.
However, De Guia argued that the presence of a fire-arm and bullets do not prove that the farmers used a gun or were armed during the incident. She said that they will still investigate whether the farmers defended themselves against the suspects, and also if the discovered gun was licensed.
The CHR also downplayed allegations that the perpetrators were members of the New People’s Army. De Guia insisted that the massacre in Sagay, and similar incidents should not be immediately blamed to communists and terrorists.
De Guia stressed that such statements need to undergo careful verification since it could damage the human rights of affected groups.
“Nakakabahala ito, in some extent, kasi kahit anong pag-oorganisa ng mga tao mapa-dito man sa siyudad o sa rural areas ay nalalagyan ng bahid ng ganitong mga pag-bibintang,” De Guia said.
“Sana naman hindi lagi o agad na magkaroon ng konklusyon o paglalahat, dahil tandaan natin na ang karapatan sa pag-oorganisa ay isang karapatan na ginugurantee ng ating Constitution,” De Guia added,
Authorities have identified the victims of the Sagay massacre as: Eglicerio Villegas Cambunga, Angelipe Arsenal, Paterno Baron, Rene ‘Dodong’ Laurencio, Morena Mendoza, Marcelina ‘Necnec’ Dumaguit, Rannel ‘Bingbing’ Bantigue, Jomarie Ughayon Jr., and Marchtel Sumicad. Both Ughayon and Sumicad were minors, and all were reported members of the National Federation of the Sugarcane Workers.
The victims were members of a 14-man group that allegedly occupied the farm owned by a certain Carmen Tolentino, a day after the harvest. Five members of the group survived the shooting incident.
Police initially believed that about 40 gunmen attacked the victims staying in improvised tents. However, testimonies clarified that only five to seven persons were involved in the massacre.