Their 18-year wait to be given a piece of land under the government’s land reform program sadly ended in death, Rene Manlangit, a survivor of the Sagay massacre said yesterday.
Manlangit, 47, a National Federation of Sugar Workers member, survived the massacre in Hda. Nene, Brgy. Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental, because he had gone to a nearby house to charge his cellular phone.
The survivors and leaders of militant groups gathered at a press conference at the Negros Press Club Bacolod City leader to demand justice for the Sagay massacre victims.
The nine killed included four women and two minors, identified as Eglicerio Villegas, 36; Angelife Dumaguit Arsenal, 47, Paterno Baron, 48, Rene Laurencio Sr., 53, Morena Mendoza, 48, Marcelina Dumaguit, 60, Rommel Bantigue, 41, Jomarie Ughayon, 17, Marchtel Sumicad, 17, all of Sagay City.
Manlangit said 32 farms workers, some of whom were among the fatalities, applied for inclusion under the Comprehensive Agrarian Program in Hacienda Nene in 2000, but no approval had been granted despite a notice of coverage that had been issued.
They were told but the owner, Carmen Tolentino, had issued a deed of donation giving the property to 25 people, and that the property had been mortgaged to the bank, he said.
Stephen Leonidas, who has been reassigned as Department of Agrarian Reform regional director for Western Visayas, said Tolentino had issued a deed of donation giving the 76-hectare property to 25 individuals.
So when a notice of coverage was issued in 2014 it was not enforced because it was found out that there were already 25 co-owners of the land, he said. Then DAR regional director Alexis Arsenal in 2010 also ruled with finality that the property had already been subjected to a deed of donation, he added.
So the NFSW members are not recognized beneficiaries of the property.
However, Manlangit said they pursued their application for the coverage of the 32 as legitimate claimants to a share of the land. The DAR had failed to act on it,so they decided to enter the farm to till the land on Saturday, he added.
Malangit, and Rogelio Arquillo, 49, who had brought the NFSW members to occupy Hacienda Nene had gone to charge their cellular phones at a nearby house when their companions were massacred.
Manlangit denied police claims that his companions were armed, all they had were tools to till the land, he said.
He also denied insinuations he an Arquillo left the camp site just before the ambush to spare themselves, pointing out that their relatives were among the dead,
Arquillo, a Vallacar bus driver, said that when they heard the gunfire while they were charging their phones, he called his daughter to seek police help. Among the dead in the massacre was his nephew was Jomarie Ughayon, 17, he said.
The police have subjected Arquillo and Manlangit to paraffin tests to determine if they had fired guns.
On the New People’s Army being suspects in the killing, Manlangit said he does not know who carried out the massacre, that is the job of the police to find out.
Also at the press conference was Bobstil Sumicad, 52, whose 17-year-old son Marchstil was killed in the massacre.
Rolando Rillo - NFSW chairperson, Clarizza Singson Dagatan – Karapatan Negros secretary general, and Marianito Amaca – North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates head, called for justice for the 9 killed in Sagay City, at the press conference.
Rillo said the NFSW condemns the merciless killing of the nine who had entered Hacienda Nene to cultivate the area.
“Land cultivation area or bungkalan is our response to resonate our campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution,” he said.
“Farmers militantly occupy idle lands and collectively cultivate these lands in order to make them productive. Bunkalan reflects the failure of government’s land reform program and the landlords’ refusal to distribute land to the tillers,” he added.
Dagatan said an independent national fact finding investigation by militant groups is set tomorrow and the Commission on Human Rights is also set to go to Sagay on Thursday.*
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