“Arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the massacre of four farmers in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation!” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said in condemnation of the killing spree by armed goons of a landgrabber-mayor in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.
According to initial reports from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansang ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), between 2:00-3:00 in the afternoon of September 3, armed men affiliated with Palayan City Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas, together with a certain Col. Rigor of Nueva Ecija Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, open fired at farmers at the disputed land. Emerenciana Mercado Dela Rosa, Violeta Mercado De Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were killed during the shooting spree. They were said to have joined the land cultivation activity (bungkalan or collective farming) of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisang 3100 (ALMANA 3100).
Angelita Milan, one of the survivors, was wounded and brought to the Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Hospital in Cabanatuan City.
At 10am, 60 members of ALMANA 3100 entered Lot 28 of Sitio Minalkot, Brgy. San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija. Lot 28 covers part of the 3,100 hectares for distribution. The farmers were there to start building huts, while others were preparing land for planting. By 12:00 noon, while members of ALMANA were having lunch, they spotted a helicopter hovering low enough to drop off two armed men – one in camouflage while the other was said to be wearing a bonnet. The armed men entered the hut owned by a certain Colonel Rigor, which was around 50 meters away from where the farmers were.
At around 2pm, several armed men assembled into two groups and positioned themselves in opposite directions. They then opened fire at the farmers for about 30 minutes. Eligio Barbado, 55, was fixing the roof of his hut when he was shot. He attempted to run but bullet caught at him; he was the first casualty of the shooting. The rest of the farmers scrambled to hide themselves behind grassy areas and inside huts. Most were huddled together in a bunkhouse. After the shooting, Angelita Milan, 55, and a 17 year-old boy who was then cuddling his 5 year-old sibling, were found injured. Milan was immediately sent to a hospital in Cabanatuan City while the 17 year-old had his wounds treated. Gaudencio Bagalay, 58, Emerenciana Mercado Dela Rosa, 53, and Violeta Mercado De Leon, 55, were later found lifeless in an old hut, huddled together under a wooden bed.
By 3:00 pm, Three officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Palayan arrived at the scene along with two soldiers from the 71st IBPA. However, they refused to investigate the area, citing that it was the jurisdiction of PNP Laur and not theirs. Bagalay sustained 21 gunshots, while De Leon and Dela Rosa also had multiple gunshot wounds. Dela Rosa’s corpse was severely mangled, with her arm almost detached from her body. Their remains were immediately brought to a funeral parlor. But given the state of their corpses, Dela Rosa and Bagalay was immediately buried three days later.
“It is important that arrests be made lest the perpetrators will once again be free from accountability, just as in the other cases during the Gloria Arroyo and BS Aquino III administrations,” Palabay emphasized.
Currently, military officials and politicians in Nueva Ecija have blatantly claimed the land as private property despite the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to the farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. This resulted to harassments against the farmer beneficiaries, and have been the site of numerous human rights violations against peasants.
She stressed that, “This case is the second case of massacre of peasants under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. The first one was in July 12, in Sumilao, Bukidnon, where three Higaonon farmers were killed by hired guards of Ram Car, Inc. The said company occupied the ancestral lands of the Higaonon tribe in Brgy. Lupiagan, Sumilao.”
Karapatan called on Pres. Duterte to protect the landless farmers twice victimized by powerful landgrabbers. “Inagawan na nga ng lupa, pinatay pa (Already driven out from their land, the farmers were killed, too.),” Palabay ended.