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HRW: Sagay massacre is proof rights abuse is beyond drug war

The site in Hacienda Nene where nine farmers were massacred by unidentified gunmen on Saturday, October 20, 2018. (Photo from Police Regional Office 6)

An international human rights group has urged the government to investigate and appropriately prosecute those responsible for the gruesome massacre of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on Saturday night.

Carlos Conde, a researcher from the Human Rights Watch, called on the Duterte administration to act and prevent escalation of violence in the agrariansector, saying that human rights abuses are no longer limited to the government’s war on drugs.

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“The Sagay massacre highlights the fact that serious rights abuses in the Philippines are not limited to the ‘drug war.’ The Duterte administration needs to promptly, credibly, and impartially carry out an investigation and appropriately prosecute those responsible –- and act to prevent further agrarian violence.”

READ: 9 sugarcane workers gunned down in Negros Occidental

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Conde noted that the victims of the Sagay massacre were members of a leftist labor group, the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers, who joined the first day of  a land occupation protest on part of the plantation.

He also pointed out that agrarian violence is not uncommon in the Philippines as there have been countless political killings in Negros, which were attributed to landowners and the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as government security forces.

“Agrarian violence is not uncommon in the Philippines, which is still grappling with the landlessness that has been blamed for massive poverty that in turn has fueled a half-century-long communist insurgency,” Conde said.

He added that government security forces in Negros have previously targeted peasants, sugarcane workers, and labor activists in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign, often accusing them of being NPA members. /jpv

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