Gov’t provides aid to Sagay 9 kin; House probe sought on massacre

BACOLOD CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte extended financial assistance to the families of the nine victims of the massacre in Sagay City, Negros Occidental even though his scheduled visit to the wake on Tuesday did not push through due to bad weather.

“The President promised that he would be coming back (once) the weather is okay. We don’t know the exact date, but the President plans to come back,” Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones told reporters in Sagay City as he confirmed that the Chief Executive could not make it to northern Negros.

He, however, did not disclose the amount given to the families.

Duterte was set to arrive at the Sagay City Government Center where the remains of the nine victims lie in state after they were killed in Hacienda Nene, Purok Firetree in Barangay Bulanon on the night of October 20.

“They were already in the chopper, but because of heavy rains it would be very risky for them to push through. He was advised to go back to the airport,” Castriciones said.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said he and his son, Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III, plan to provide land to the families of the nine victims where they can live together in a settlement. “They will be provided housing and livelihood and will be assisted so they can plant high-value crops,” he added.

The governor said four orphaned children of the couple who died will receive scholarships.

“They will receive more assistance from the city and provincial governments and from the national government,” Marañon said, adding the city government also spent for the victims’ funeral services.

Meanwhile, Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Alfredo Benitez urged the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry into the killings of the nine farmers, who are members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).

Benitez filed the resolution on Tuesday, with Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano as co-author, directing Congress to investigate the Oct. 20 massacre.

“The government must guarantee a fast but thorough investigation on the case and ensure that the perpetrators be identified soon, make them face the full wrath of the law,” the Negrense lawmaker said.

“The angle of land dispute as a probable cause for this crime is quite disconcerting. There are proper venues to resolve these kinds of issues. What happened to the nine members of NSFW was savagery,” he added.

Benitez added Congress should not only look at this crime, but also investigate any deeply-rooted issue that may have led to the massacre. “We hope to come up with appropriate solutions that will prevent another incident in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, director of Police Regional Office 6 (Western Visayas), visited the scene of the crime with Armed Forces chief, Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Bulalacao said the investigators have identified the suspects and the vital witnesses.

“This is a land grabbing issue where the suspect(s) may have an interest in the property,” he said.

He added the police is looking at three angles — first, the crime may have been perpetrated by the landowner, possibly using hired goons; second, by those who are legitimate claimants; and third, by the New People’s Army with the aim of discrediting the government, military and police. Nanette Guadalquiver/