The Escalante Massacre: Three Decades After

Escalante

Photo from Rep. Karlos Zarate’s Instagram account

Ang UMA | July-December 2015

Various peasant and human rights groups, including the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW ) commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Escalante massacre in Negros Occidental last September.

A torch parade by residents of Escalante City was held a night before the actual anniversary. On September 20, the NFSW held protest marches in Escalante and Bacolod City to honor the fallen martyrs.

The Escalante Massacre was the result of the violent assault against the 5,000-strong rally composed mainly of hacienda or sugar workers and other progressive sectors such as fisherfolk, students, urban poor, professionals and church people who gathered in Escalante to protest the 13th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The mobilization was also in response to a nationwide call for a “Welgang Bayan” (People’s Strike) against the Marcos dictatorship.

At least nineteen people were killed and scores were injured when state forces led by 50 combat-ready Regional Special Action Forces (RSAF ), local policemen, members of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), and unidentified armed men opened fire at the protesters, mid-afternoon of September 20, 1985.

Shooting reportedly occurred after then-Escalante town mayor Braulio Lumayo and Congressman Armando Gustilo left the town hall with their bodyguards. After the carnage, local warlords Lumayo and Gustilo were never summoned for investigation by the Escalante Massacre Fact-Finding Commission. A ranking police officer in command of RSAF was assigned elsewhere and was even promoted. Only three (3) low-ranking policemen were imprisoned as fall guys for their role in the massacre. They were eventually released in 2003.

On December 3, 2012 the martyrs of Escalante were honored as heroes at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City. Most of the massacre victims were in their youth with the youngest, Rovena Franco only 14, and others in their teens and early 20s – Norberto Locanilao and Maria Luz Mondejar, (16); Michael Dayanan, Angelina Lape, and Ronilo Santa Ana, (17); William Alegre, Alex Labatos, Claro Monares, Manuel Tan, and Cesar Tejones, (18); Nenita Orot (20); Juvelyn Jaravello, Rogelio Megallen Jr., and Rodolfo Montealto (21), Rodolfo Mahinay and Edgardo Salili (23). All victims were hacienda workers except for Juvelyn who was a community organizer.

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