DUMAGUETE CITY — Four farmers, three of them females, were shot dead Wednesday morning while they were harvesting in a sugarcane plantation supposedly covered by Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program at Barangay Napacao, Siaton town in Negros Oriental.
A fifth farmer, a male, also sustained gunshot wounds but survived the bloody attack which police investigators initially reported as having been allegedly perpetrated by security guards of the estate owned by a certain Don Gaspar Vicente, said Insp. Rafael Serion, the Siaton police chief.
The victims all died after they were shot at close range.
Killed were Jessebel Amantillo Abayle, 34; Carmelina Garingo Amantillo, 57; Consolacion Esparcia Cadevida, 66, all farmers and residents of Sitio Bondo, Barangay Napacao in Siaton; and Felimon Torres Molero, 66, resident of Sitio Salngan, Barangay Mayabon in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.
The wounded farmer was identified as Lito Prudencia de Jesus, 28, of Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton, who was brought to a hospital in Dumaguete City.
Responding police arrested immediately five suspects in the shooting incident. They were identified as Roswil Cero Antanoy, 29, of Barangay Cabang, Jimalalud; Edilberto Torres Pancho, 41, of Barangay San Jose, Tanjay City; Reynante Baylon Rubia, 36, of Barangay Maluay, Zamboanguita; Nelcher Abril Abordo, 24, of Barangay Malabuhan, Siaton; and Jason Torres Ramos, 31, a resident of Sitio Bondo, Barangay Napacao also in Siaton, all in Negros Oriental.
The suspects claimed to be security guards of the Nico Security Agency and who were assigned at the estate in Napacao, according to Serion.
They are also believed to be members of the “Pulahan Group,” a religious revival cult group which they all denied.
Initial police investigation showed that at around 8 a.m. Wednesday, the casualties and five others were resting under a blackberry tree after harvesting sugarcane when suddenly they were fired upon by the suspects.
A hand grenade was also lobbed at them, which exploded, Serion added.
The wounded were brought to the Siaton District Hospital for treatment but four of them died while the other one was transferred to Dumaguete.
According to the farmers, they harvested the sugarcane because they were the ones who planted it even though they have a pending petition for inclusion under the CARP.
Police immediately conducted follow-up operations which led to the arrest of the five suspects inside a “farmhouse,” where they were holed out.
Senior Supt. Edwin Portento, police provincial director, immediately deployed a team from the Provincial Public Safety Company headed by Chief Insp. Alvin Futalan to track down the suspects who were already wearing their blue guard uniforms at the house of Anabel Ramos, whom they identified as the caretaker of the property of Don Gaspar Vicente.
Recovered from them were four shotguns, 41 rounds of ammunition for 12 gauge shotgun, and one magazine for 9 mm pistol containing 23 rounds of ammunition.
Witnesses said the guards allegedly shot Aballe point blank with the use of a caliber .45 pistol as evidenced at the crime scene where one spent shell of caliber .45 was recovered.
Also recovered was a round of live ammunition for a caliber .38 revolver and shrapnel and parts of a hand grenade that exploded.
The suspects claimed the firearms are licensed and were issued to them by the Nico Security Agency.
Serion, however, disclosed they still have to find out if the security guards are duly licensed.
The suspects were subjected to paraffin tests to determine whether they had fired a gun during the commotion. Mary Judaline Partlow With report from Juancho Gallarde/PNA-northboundasia.com