Death came easily to those accused of having ties with the New People's Army (NPA) as a family of sugarcane farmers from Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental was slain by the Philippine Army 94th Infantry Batallion (IB) Charlie Company on Wednesday after years of red-tagging, harrasment, and surveillance.
The victims were identified as the Fausto family: Rolly, 55; Emilda, 50; and their children Ben, 15, and Rabin, 12.
At 10 p.m. on June 14, loud gunshots were heard by Negros-based September 21 Movement. The group found Emilda and her children lifeless in their residence, while Rolly, on the other hand, was killed in the sugarcane field. The local police report said they sustained gunshot wounds to the head.
Their deaths come amid the continued implementation of former President Rodrigo Duterte's Memorandum 32 (MO 32) which deployed additional Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel in Bicol, Negros Oriental and Occidental, and Samar.
The establishment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) through Executive Order 70, another policy from the Duterte presidency, also intensified human rights violations in farming and rural communities like Himamaylan.
"Under the Duterte administration, Negros Island became a laboratory of state fascism, the led to the extrajudicial killings of more than a hundred individuals, mostly farmers and activists," farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.
Before the massacre, the Fausto family had already been victims of various human rights violations. In March 2022, Emilda and Rolly were threatened and red-tagged as members of the NPA by uniformed officers who even stole from them. Their residential hut was also ransacked twice this year.
Yesterday, the Commission on Human Rights announced that they have deployed investigators to look into the nature of the case.
“At this point, there are already allegations that the incident was insurgency-related allegedly linked to the New People’s Army. But there is also an allegation linking it to the Philippine Army. All possible angles will be pursued in the course of CHR’s independent investigation,” the commission wrote.
Since 2018, the Negros Occidental has been a human rights violations hotspot. Last year, the regional arm of CHR reported that there were at least 81 cases in the province, with links to state forces intervention. The Fausto family now adds to the tally.
"We demand justice for the Fausto family. We demand a stop to the intense militarization of peasant communities in Negros towns," KMP said. ●
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