March 30, 2019 was the bloodiest in Negros yet, with a total of 14 peasants allegedly murdered in operations of the Philippine National Police Region 7, its Special Action Force and Regional Mobile Force, and together with elements of the 94th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army.
The state police and military units were conducting what they called “synchronized enhanced management of police operations” or Sempo, in Canlaon City as well as in Manjuyod and Sta. Catalino towns in Negros Oriental, according to the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNahra).
The Sempo has been dubbed “Oplan Sauron” by the authorities — apparently named after the dark lord villian in JR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels.
Reportedly killed in Canlaon were eight (8) farmers: Avelino brothers Ismael, 53, and Edgardo, 59, of Sitio Carmen, Barangay Panubigan; Mechor Panares, 67, and his son, Mario, 46 of Sitio Tigbahi, Barangay Bayog; Rogelio Recomono, 52 and his son Ricky, 28, of Sitio Manggata, Barangay Masulog; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, of Barangay Pula; and Genes Palmares, 54 of Barangay Aquino.
Edgardo Avelino was chair of Hugpong Kusog sa Mag-uuma or Hukom in Canlaon City. Hukom is a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
Aside from the killings, 12 farmers were arrested in the operations. This included, according to NNahra: Nestor Kadusale, 58, of Sitio Kambugtong, Barangay Bantolinao, who is also a local leader of the KMP in Manjuyod town.
In Manjuyod, included in the four killed were two barangay captains: Valentin Acabal of Barangay Kandabong, and Sonny Palagtiw of Barangay Panciao. The other two farmers were Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.
Meanwhile, in Sta. Catalina town, the two killed in police-military operations were identified as Franklin Lariosa and Ano Enojo Rapada.
According to Nnahra, Oplan Sauron was first operationalized in Guihulngan City and two other town of Negros Oriental on December 27, 2018. Six peasants were killed and 50 were arrested in that first wave of operations.
Nnahra reported that the operations were first declared to be part of “anti-criminality” and “anti-drugs” operations. But PNP would later allege that the victims were killed in “shootouts with rebels”. Yesterday, the police said that at least some of the fatalities were members of the New People’s Army’s “sparrow units”.
“The appalling conduct of these “police operations” obviously aims to make peasants, activitists, and other ordinary citizens of Negros to cower in fear, surrender their rights, and accept the wave of terror under de facto Martial Law and Malacanang’s Memorandum Order No. 32,” said Rey Alburo of Nnahra, in a statement.
Oplan Sauron, the group said, is part of the Duterte government’s declared plan to “end the communist insurgency” through Executive Order 70.
“This second wave of Oplan Sauron continues the government’s bloody crackdown against organized peasants in Negros which started with the series of EJKs of peasant leaders and the Sagay massacre,” Alburo added.
Nnahra added that “a few days ago, elements of the 79 th IB returned to Sitio Magtuod in Barangay Bug-ang, Toboso, to once again harass and threaten the members of the Pakigdait sa Kalambuan (PSK) farmers cooperative.”
The group said that they received reports that “more than 100 individuals” from Escalante City are included in a so-called “arrest list” or “kill list” for the next phases of Oplan Sauron.
More than 60 peasants have been killed in Negros under Duterte.
“The wave of killings must stop. End these demonic Sauron operations and pull-out military troops from peasant communities of Negros. Justice for all victims,” Alburo concluded.