Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd called on the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the murder of five peasant leaders in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.
“This incident strikes close to home. With all due respect, as the highest government official from our region, you can help in the resolution of these incidents that can negatively impact on the peace initiative,” said Bello, chairman of the government panel negotiating a peace deal with communist rebels.
A native of Gattaran, a first class municipality in Cagayan province, Bello said he is saddened by the attack on Ariel Diaz in Villa Pereda village in Delfin Albano town on Sept. 7.
Four days earlier, unidentified gunmen killed farmers Gaudencio Bagalay, Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado and Eligio Barbado while they were working on a portion of a 3,100-hectare land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Another farmer, Angelita Milan, was wounded in the attack.
“We sought the help of the NBI on this,” Bello said in a message to colleagues in government.
All those killed were leaders of left-leaning organizations. Diaz was the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon (Dagami), a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Isabela, and the inter-municipal Peasant Alliance Against Foreign Landgrabbing. He was also an organizer of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA Pilipinas) in Delfin Albano town.
Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, in his capacity as adviser of the government peace panel representing local government units and as president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, condemned the killing of the farmers.
“A thorough and no-nonsense investigation must be conducted by the local Philippine National Police backed up by the concerned regional directors of DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform). Criminal charges must be filed against the perpetrators of these crimes,” Pamintuan said in a statement.
“I also call on all local government officials in the said provinces to take serious actions and use the powers given to them by law to stop the perpetrators in their evil design of taking over the farmers’ land,” Diaz said.
“They should not wait for the government peace panel to look into these reports. They should act now if there is evidence and reasonable ground,” he added.