Families of slain farmers in CARP-covered land cry for justice

DUMAGUETE CITY – Family members of the four farmers who were shot dead while harvesting sugarcane in a disputed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)-covered land in Barangay Napacao, Siaton in Negros Oriental are seeking justice for the deceased.

They expressed their sentiments in an interview with the media as the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaint filed against the five suspects proceeded as scheduled Tuesday afternoon at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office at the Hall of Justice in Dumaguete City.

Assistant Prosecutor Jo Ann Marie Muñoz Abada is handling the complaint.

Charged with multiple murder and frustrated murder in relation to the deaths of four farmers, three of them female, and the wounding of another last February 21 at the Gaspar Vicente landholdings are 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 five suspects arrived at the Hall of Justice under heavy guard by police personnel and were handcuffed to each other.

They were accused of shooting to death Jessebel Amantillo Abayle, 34; her mother, Carmelina Garingo Amantillo, 57; Consolacion Esparcia Cadevida, 66, all residents of Sitio Bondo in Barangay Napacao, Siaton; and Felimon Torres Molero, 66, a resident of Sitio Salngan in Barangay Mayabon, Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.

The wounded farmer who is still in the hospital was identified as Lito Prudencia de Jesus, 28, of Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton.

Lolita Estomante, sister of the slain Carmelina Amantillo, lamented that the helpless victims were ruthlessly killed, debunking earlier reports from the opposing side that the supposed petitioners for inclusion to the CARP-covered land had armed persons in their group.

According to her, those who died were not armed except for the bladed weapons used to harvest the cane.

She recounted that she followed the others to help in the harvesting of sugarcane and as she entered the premises of the sugarcane field, she heard gunfire and later, a huge explosion.

Estomante said she did not see who shot the victims but learned later that two of those who were killed were her immediate relatives.

Evelyn Panggoy, sister of victim Amantillo Abayle and daughter of Carmelina Amantillo, could not help but shed tears for the loss of two family members.

Panggoy said her mother and sister had wanted her to come along and harvest sugarcane but she was late because she had to see her children off to school first.

By the time she got to the sugarcane fields, she said she also heard bursts of gunfire and a loud explosion.

She also did not know that both her mother and sister were among those killed until much later when one of the other farmers informed her.

For her part, Elizabeth Cadevida, whose mother, 66-year-old Consolacion was among those shot dead, held back her tears as she explained that her mother was just earning a living by harvesting sugarcane because her children were already married and lived in Dumaguete and elsewhere.

Their parents, however, chose to remain in Siaton, she added.

Cadevida declined to comment on the status of her parents as petitioners for inclusion under the CARP, saying she was not privy to what was happening at the farm owned by the Vicentes.

She is hoping justice will be served to all those who were killed and wounded in that incident.

The bloody murders in Barangay Napacao, Siaton stemmed from an ongoing dispute among regular farmworkers who the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had awarded a Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) and the so-called petitioners for inclusion, which the agency still has to act upon.

Those who were killed, along with others who managed to escape unharmed during the shooting incident, were found to have no authority to harvest the sugarcane that they did not plant and which belonged to the CLOA holders, according to the DAR.

The preliminary investigation was terminated Tuesday afternoon with Assistant Prosecutor Abada expected to come up with a resolution on the complaint in the coming days. PNA-northboundasia.com