Justice remains elusive for sagay, 9 victims

MILITANT GROUPS in Negros Occidental hold a protest rally at the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City Wednesday to highlight their call for justice in the killing of nine persons in Sagay City on Oct 20, 2018. (Glazyl Y. Masculino)

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Militant groups in Negros Occidental continue to call for justice for the nine victims of “Sagay 9” who were brutally murdered at Barangay Bulanon on Oct 20, 2018.

Members of the progressive groups marched from Rizal Park towards the Fountain of Justice in front of the Old City Hall in Bacolod City on Wednesday.

John Lozande, secretary-general of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), said the protest was held, in relation to the court hearing of lawyer Katherine Panguban, one of the members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), who is facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges filed by the father of a minor, who survived the massacre.

The criminal complaint filed against Panguban a week after the incident, stemmed from the complaint of the father of the minor-survivor that Karapatan-Negros through the assistance of Panguban forcibly took the custody of his son by using his estranged wife.

But, the NUPL in defense, earlier said that the minor’s mother engaged the services of NUPL, as represented by Panguban, in close coordination with NUPL national and its Negros and Panay chapters, and Karapatan after the child’s father cavalierly and unilaterally, without consulting the child’s mother, turned him over to the police and local authorities.

Lozande said they are urging the government to look for the real perpetrators behind the massacre and to stop the attack on lawyers, who seek for truth and justice for the victims.

The NUPL, in a press statement, said “the case against Panguban is yet another attack in this regime’s open season not only against unarmed activists and human rights defenders, but also against poor victims of heinous crimes and their lawyers.”

It abuses legal processes underhandedly and further vilifies the legitimate work and advocacy of lawyers like Panguban, who dare expose the state’s contrived attempts to incriminate the innocent in its specious narratives, the group said.

While the NUPL is confident that the ridiculous charges will not stand in any court of law, it will remain vigilant in defending one of its own, the group said.

Lozande said they are also urging the authorities to solve the murder case of lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who was killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants in Kabankalan City in November 2018. He was murdered days after responding to the Sagay massacre.

It has been six months already since the incident happened, but police have no development yet on Ramos’s murder case, Lozande said.

We are also calling to stop the extrajudicial killings, he added.