By: Dolly Yasa and Glazyl Yulo Masculino
BACOLOD City – Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo condemned the series of killings in the province of Negros Oriental, with the latest body count at 20.
In a press conference over the weekend streamed via the official Facebook account of the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental, Degamo directed the PNP to conduct a thorough and in-depth investigation on the killings.
But Degamo said he still considers the killings as isolated incidents and “if martial will be declared it will only be in affected areas and not the entire province of Negros Oriental.”
Based on police records, 20 persons were killed in a span of 10 days since July 18 by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants and suspected rebels in Negros Oriental.
The latest victims over the weekend were a former mayor of Ayungon town and his cousin who was a councilor in Canlaon City.
The fatalities were identified as Canlaon City councilor Ramon Jalandoni who was gunned down by about 20 armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at his house at Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City past midnight.
Police Staff Sergeant Gerold Depositario of Canlaon City Police Station, said the assailants armed with long-barrelled firearms entered the victim’s house and allegedly shot him to death.
The armed men left on board a white van. The victim’s family was unharmed.
Depositario said the assailants spray-painted the words “Mabuhay CPP-NPA” on the victim’s car.
A few minutes later, Panubigan village chief Ernesto Posadas, 71, was also shot dead by armed men at his house.
The assailants also spray-painted on his house walls the words “Traidor sa NPA” and “Mabuhay ang NPA.”
They escaped on board a white van. No other injuries were reported.
Depositario said the shootings were simultaneously done by two teams.
Although the area is not rebel-infested, the killings were probably insurgency-related, he added.
In Ayungon town, former town Mayor Edsel Enardecido, 60 and his cousin, Leo, 45, both of Barangay Tampocon 1 were killed by unidentified armed men at the former’s house two hours after the Canlaon incidents.
Police have yet to determine if it was connected to the Canlaon incident.
But local police said that the manner of the recent killings were similar, claiming it could be the same perpetrators.
The series of killings came after the ambush slay of four intelligence police operatives of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB)-7 in Ayungon town on July 18.
Five days later, lawyer Anthony Trinidad was killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants in Guihulngan City on July 23. It also resulted in the injuries of his wife.
The following day, rebel returnee Weny Alegre; and Felimino Janayan, president of United Calango Farmer Association (UCFA) were gunned down by four unidentified men on two motorcycles believed to be suspected rebels near a cockpit in Zamboanguita town on July 24.
Also killed that day at his house in Dumaguete City was Yngwie Malmstien Fabugais.
The most number of killings were recorded on July 25, with seven fatalities, including a child.
Killed last Thursday in Guihulngan City were Arthur Cordevilla Bayawa, principal of Science High School; and his sister Ardale Cordevilla Bayawa, chief of the Curriculum Implementation Division (CID) of DepEd in the city, and Buenavista village chief Romeo Arbole Alipan.
It was followed by another shooting incident in Siaton town, killing a certain Raklin Astorias.
In Ayungon town, Reden Eleuterio was also gunned down that day. He was the cousin of the Mabato village chief who committed suicide, following the ambush slay in the town last week.
On Thursday night, a man and his child were also killed while his wife and another child were injured in another shooting incident in Sta. Catalina town.
The next day, a certain Fedirico Sabejon was also killed in Siaton town on July 26.
“I express my sincerest condolences to the families of the vcitims, and while I am waiting for the statement of condemnation from the local chief executives of the said localities I, as governor of this province is the first to stand up and condemn these killings in the strongest possible terms.
“Tama na sobra,” Degamo said.
He also said that he is enjoining the church leaders, the police as well as the military for a localized peace talks at the same time, asked the PNP to look into the possibility that the killings were perpetuated by hired guns.
“As the governor I have to be on top of the situation, we are dealing with this step by step and we are looking forward to the earliest resolution of the case, let us stand for peace, let us make the rule of law prevail in our province.” Degamo said.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros urged the House of Representives, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and other independent bodies to investigate the series of killings in Negros Island.
Members of Bayan-Negros held an indignation rally at the Fountain of Justice here last Saturday, to condemn the violence allegedly being perpetrated by state agents against communities in Negros.
Bayan-Negros secretary general Michael Dela Concepcion, said “this week has been the bloodiest in Negros since President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire region, along with Bicol and Samar under Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32, which according to them is an intensified order that aggravated the impact of Oplan Sauron and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan.”
Duterte directed the immediate deployment of troops to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Bicol in an effort to thwart lawless violence and acts of terror in these areas, based on the said memorandum order.
The Oplan Sauron or the Synchronized Enhanced Management Police Operations (Sempo), made headlines in December 2018 and March 2019, after 20 persons, including two village chiefs were killed when they allegedly resisted arrest during the implementation of search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives in the said province.
Fourteen of which were suspected to be members of the Special Partisan Unit (Sparu) of the NPA.
Dela Concepcion said the policies under the said memorandum order relentlessly attacked and killed community leaders and activists whom they accused as members of the NPA.
“The accusations are without basis, but the effects are fatal, mostly leading to killings. The monstrosity done against individuals and communities continues with impunity,” Dela Concepcion said.
“These lies need to be exposed and challenged. The people of Negros are not only slowly dying from hunger, poverty and drought, they are also being mercilessly murdered by a fascist and vindictive regime,” he added.
“We likewise demand that Memorandum Order 32 be rescinded or suspended and that the peace talks be resumed between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” he said.
Dela Concepcion also said they stand alongside the families of the victims, and enjoin them to raise their voices in the fight for justice and accountability.
TOLLING OF BELLS
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said there will be tolling of church bells starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 28 in all parishes in Negros Occidental to protest the recent killings in Negros island.
Alminaza said the tolling of church bells will continue “until the killings stop.”
“Let the tolling of bells remind us that the senseless killings are inhuman. Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of the perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths,” Alminaza said in a pastoral letter.
The bishop is also calling on government officials and the authorities to speak up and join them in the cry to end the senseless killings.
“Please speak up! Let not your silence add to the growing number of killings. Let not your silence embolden more the criminals. Let justice and peace reign,” he said.
Alminaza earlier reiterated the call for an integral peace in Negros-one that addresses social injustice and promotes economic equality and inclusive development for all.