Statement on Sagay 9 Massacre

Opinion & Analysis Nov 23, 2018 at 3:48 pm

VDLC-logoVancouver District and Labour Council

The VDLC stands in the solidarity with the National Federation of Sugar Workers in the Philippines in the wake of the massacre of the “Sagay 9”. The following motion was adopted at our regular meeting yesterday evening with regards to these horrible and unacceptable murders of union activists:

Subject: Condemning the Massacre of the “Sagay 9”

BECAUSE on October 20, 2018, nine civilians were gunned down in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, in the central Philippine island of Negros by what is described by Philippine human rights groups as the single most deadly attack against peasant activists under the President Rodrigo Duterte administration; and

BECAUSE sources report several armed men opened fire on the farm workers while they were eating supper inside their tents at around 9:30 in the evening. Furthermore, the victims suffered headshot wounds and three of those who died were doused with gasoline and burned.

The victims are ANGELIFFA ARSENAL, 47; ROMMEL BANTIGUE, 41; PATERNO BARYO, 48; MARCELINA DUMAGUIT, 60; RENE LAURENCIO, SR, 53; MORENA MENDOZA, 48; EGLICERIO VILLEGAS, 36; and minors MARCHEL SUMICAD, 17 and JOEMARIE UGHAYON, JR, 16, all collectively now referred to as the “Sagay Nine (9)”; and

BECAUSE the farm workers were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) who had occupied an idle portion of Hacienda Nene’s 75 hectares or 185 acres which is earmarked for redistribution to farmers under the government land reform program; and

BECAUSE the farm workers were participating in a collective farming program (called bungkalan) which meant that when the land is left idle after the sugarcane harvest, the NFSW farm workers occupy the land and plant vegetables to feed their families and communities. This downtime is called “tiempo muerto” or the dead season in between the sugarcane harvest and planting season; and

BECAUSE a national fact-finding mission on the massacre, which included human rights groups, lawyers, and children’s advocates reported that the most likely suspects point to the government-backed paramilitary group called the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) who are well known to be engaged in protecting the haciendas; and

BECAUSE Hacienda Nene is currently under notice by the Department of Agrarian Reform for land redistribution to peasant farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. After decades of waiting for the Program to redistribute the land, the farm workers have asserted their right to occupy the idle land and cultivate it for their survival; and

BECAUSE the sugar industry in Negros Island accounts for 25% of the employment of local farm workers who are among the poorest in the Philippines. On average, sugar workers in the haciendas receive wages of PHP500 to PHP700 (US$9.30-US$14) per week, which is below the government minimum wage of PHP245 (US$4.50) daily for farm workers; and

BECAUSE various international groups like the Canadian Council for International Cooperation – Asia Pacific Working Group, Human Rights Watch, the New York Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines and the Canada-Philippines for Human Rights in the Philippines have condemned the massacre,

THE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL send a strong letter to the Philippine Government to condemn the massacre of the “Sagay 9” and call for an independent and thorough investigation by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights; and

THE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL send a letter of support to the National Federation of Sugar Workers as they continue to seek justice for the “Sagay 9” massacre victims and to seek genuine agrarian reform; and
HE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL send a letter of concern to the Canadian government to stop funding and cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and other groups who have been linked with human rights violations; and

THE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL continue its solidarity with workers in the Philippines through such means as its “Adopt an Organizer” program; and

THE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL organize a report back of the solidarity tour which is visiting the Philippines this month, in order to raise awareness about the conditions faced by workers there and to build support for the program.