Agriworkers led by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) vehemently condemn the gun attack on human rights activists conducting a fact-finding mission in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, yesterday afternoon (November 28).
The shooting incident resulted in the death of two members of the mission, Elisa Badayos, 59, and her companion, tricycle driver Eleoterio Moises. A youth activist was also reportedly injured.
UMA Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande said that “The killing of human rights activists underscores the prevailing reign of terror in Negros Oriental. Duterte’s threats to go after legal activists have emboldened those behind the brutal killings in Negros and all other areas in the country plagued by impunity.”
According to Danilo Tabura of NFSW-Negros, activists and ordinary farmers like Badayos and Moises are common targets of Duterte’s crackdown.
Badayos, coordinator of Karapatan Negros Oriental, was no stranger to state fascism. Her husband, labor leader Jimmy Badayos was forcibly disappeared by the military in 1990. Their daughter Jimmylisa was also a victim of unlawful arrest and trumped-up charges in 2012. Elisa herself was slapped with several fabricated criminal charges in 2015.
Meanwhile, Moises was a barangay tanod and member of local peasant organization Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association. The other injured victim was identified to be a member of Kabataan Partylist in Cebu City.
“Duterte’s threats translating into actual atrocities like this send a chilling effect to the public. The fascist regime wants victims and survivors to succumb to fear now that even human rights defenders have become targets of attacks. It does not tolerate the investigation of rights violations by state security forces not only in Negros but in other critical areas,” said Lozande, who likened the incident to Marcosian Martial Law tactics and Palparan-style terror during the Arroyo regime.
The mission, composed of 30 activists from Central Visayas, aimed to document the spate of extra-judicial killings (EJK), threats and harassment in Bayawan City and Santa Catalina. It was reported that the Philippine National Police (PNP) deployed additional combat troops in the province.
Negros Oriental was earlier in the news due to the spate of political killings in Guihulngan City, where human rights groups documented eight victims of EJK since July 2017.
“Following Duterte’s murderous rhetoric, state forces target unnarmed civilians and legal activists whom they believe are supporters of the New People’s Army. After the police suffered heavy casualties and humilitation for the July 21 ambush of the NPA in Guihulngan, state forces are disposed to retaliate and harass ordinary farmers and civilians,” said Lozande.
“Duterte and his mercenary police and military attack dogs are terribly mistaken if they think that the peasant movement will simply bow down to terror after this terrible incident. We have no choice but to continue to fight for justice. All human rights defenders and freedom-loving people here and abroad should condemn this latest atrocity of the US-Duterte fascist regime,” said Tabura.