By Martin Sadongdong
The massacre of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental on October 20 is now considered as “case closed” after the filing of multiple murder charges against those who allegedly recruited the victims to join a militant sugar workers group, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
However, PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said it was not a “closed case” since police continue to face a blank wall as to the motive behind the killing of the farmers, members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
“It’s case solved but it’s not closed kasi gagawa pa ng malalim na investigation dyan (because a deeper probe is on-going),” Albayalde explained.
Up to now, police have yet to arrive at a conclusion on the reason why the farmers were killed.
This, despite the filing of multiple murder charges against two alleged NFSW recruiters, Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo, and five other John Does over the killing. They remain at-large, and no arrest has been made yet, police said.
“Yun ang tinitingnan natin kung ano pa ang dahilan dyan. Sigurado, meron pang kadahilanan dyan (We’re still looking at the reasons [behind the killing]. For sure, there is a reason,” Albayalde said.
However, the PNP said the focus of the investigation was anchored on the possible involvement of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the massacre.
Albayalde earlier tagged the NFSW as a legal front of the NPA, a claim denied by the sugar workers’ group.
“Based on the information of the Police Regional Office, Region 6, ‘yan ay (they are a) legal front of the NPA,” he reiterated.
Albayalde said the NPA was instigating the farmers to illegally occupy lands, and should any untoward incident happen, the militants could easily put the blame on the government.
But with the absence of evidence, all of the PNP’s claims remain baseless, he admitted.
The NFSW, for their part, contradicted the PNP, and said a private armed group of Hacienda Nene’s lessee or “aryendador” was behind the massacre.
Hacienda Nene, the sugar plantation where the massacre occurred, was owned by a certain Carmen Tolentino. According to the NFSW, an aryendador is “a close relative of a powerful landlord.”
But based on the investigation of the PNP, the owner of the farm seemed to not have a private army.
“Well, lumalabas na hindi ‘yung owner… Although, sabi ko iniimbestigahan baka ‘yung owner naman ginamit niya itong member ng NFSW. Pwede ‘yun (Well, it appears it’s not the owner [and a private army]. Although, I said to investigate whether the owner used the NFSW [recruiters]. It’s possible),” Albayalde said.