By Chito Chavez
A group of sugar workers asked President Duterte and the military to stop ‘red tagging’’ its members.
The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) issued the call insisting that there is a concerted effort to malign its leaders and discredit the just claims of sugar workers and farmers for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform.
Earlier, the group claimed that Duterte in his speech in Malacañang insensitively castigated farmers launching their ‘bungkalan’ campaigns and red-baiting them in presuming they have links to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Even with the ongoing investigation, the group maintained the President quickly absolved the military, which has been nestling the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) under the AFP’s Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA) unit stationed in Hacienda Mirasol, barangay Baterya, some 2 kilometers from the massacre site.
NFSW secretary general John Milton “Ka Butch” Lozande said, “Just days after the Sagay massacre, President Duterte did not lose time using the brutal killings to prove his Red October fiction.”
He added that instead of implementing a free land distribution program with support services for the poor landless farmers, the president even threatened them if they ever plan to occupy and cultivate idle lands.
On the same day, General Carlito Galvez Jr., AFP chief of staff, tried to convince the general public and media of its grand narrative that the CPP-NPA was behind the massacre of nine farm workers in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, as part of its long debunked “Red October” myth, said Lozande.
The group said the “AFP repeatedly confused journalists as it fumbled over its own lies by pushing its theory that the CPP-NPA made the farmworkers bait to incite the massacre, while they are also the ones who perpetrated the killings.”
“Instead of looking for the perpetrators and bringing them to justice, the AFP, like their president, chose to throw baseless accusations, red-tagging NFSW leaders and members and making them open targets to extrajudicial killings, threats, harassment, and prosecution. If anything happens to them, there is only the AFP to blame,” said Lozande.
In 2017, NFSW leaders Alexander Ceballos and Flora Jemola, were brutally murdered. The following year, Ronald Manlapat and Julius Barellano were also gunned down. None have been brought to justice.
The group added the AFP wantonly named Lozande, Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tino, berating them for speaking out against the Sagay massacre.
“Ridiculously, the AFP denounced these public pronouncements that call for respect of human rights and justice as “mind conditioning,” the group added.
“As the AFP insisted that the Sagay massacre is part of the CPP-NPA’s ‘sinister plot,’ along with organizing workers and creating a broad alliance, it unwittingly revealed its own devious scheme of finding justification to finally declare a nationwide martial law. This means that the Filipino people must become all the more vigilant and not cower in fear as the Duterte government, the AFP and PNP would want us to be,” Lozande said.