Wife of peasant leader killed in Negros, four other activists receive death threats
Weeks after the killing of Alexander Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros, his wife and leaders of people’s organizations in the province are being threatened and harassed by a political clan in Negros and elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Please join us in condemning the attacks and death threats against activists and their families – acts that seek to discourage their work and struggle for genuine agrarian reform. Such threats indicate the systematic collusion among landlords, politicians, and State security forces.
In light of the continuing harassment and attacks against leaders of peasant and progressive organizations, discussions on the substantive agenda on genuine agrarian reform and rural development in the formal peacetalks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) need to go forward to address the root causes of injustice, such as landlessness and poverty. Continuing rights abuses in the countryside, the refusal of landlords to abide with land distribution despite government orders, and the continued use of State-sponsored violence against farmers are all the more compelling reasons to push towards the path of advancing the talks and crafting an agreement on socio-economic reforms.
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENTS
On January 20, 2017, Alexander Ceballos, 54, regional council member and district area coordinator of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was gunned down by two unnamed assailants near his house in Purok Tangke, Brgy. Pandanon Silos, Murcia, Negros Occidental. Ceballos, along with NFSW, led the cultivation of a 25-hectare area utilized to provide sustainable livelihood to an estimated 50 farm workers and their families. The extra-judicial killing of Ceballos was attributed to the Dela Cruz family, a political clan that has controlled the town of Salvador Benedicto for more than 20 years, and has previously committed many forms of harassment against leaders of NFSW. The Dela Cruz family is known to have direct ties to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and is known to hire goons to harass the farmers.
Details on the killing of Ceballos can be accessed through http://karapatan.org/Four+activists+killed+this+January+2017.
On January 28, during the wake of Ceballos at his family’s residence, Quilina Ceballos, 50, wife of Alexander Ceballos, received death threats via a text message. The message read: ‘You, your companions, and your two sons’ place in the cemetery is ready.’ The sender was referring to other members of NFSW, and Quilina and Alexander’s sons, Ariel and Maochie. Quilina Ceballos and her sons, Ariel and Maochie, are also active members of NFSW.
Six days later, on the evening of February 3, 2017, Quilina Ceballos received another death threat through text message, this time including the names of other leaders of people’s organizations in the province who have been working with NFSW on agrarian reform struggles. The names of Christian Tuayon, Secretary General of Bayan Negros, Dolly ‘Aging’ Celedonio, Secretary General of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) – Negros, and Danny Tabura, local leader of NFSW, were mentioned in the said messages. The text message, sent at around 9pm, detailed:
The damage that you caused cannot be compensated by money, your foolish protesting will be the reason for your eventual death. Give my regards to Christian, Aging, Danny; they will not last for long in this world, hiding is futile. Your children too, give my advance condolence to them… It’s okay, we will also burn your house and car. You do not know who you are up against. If you continue with the direction you are going, you won’t have any use for you house and car, for I will burn them. You and your children will soon be gone from this world, and also your other companions; all your names are listed in our ‘project’.
The sender alluded that part of their ‘project’ is to go after all the names of leaders that they have listed, a practice reminiscent of the military’s Order of Battle lists.
In another incident on February 3, 2017, Christian Tuayon’s 8-year-old son, “Mario” (not his real name), was approached by a certain Salt Alvarez Peña who registered his name as ‘Jose Salcedo’ in the security guards’ logbook. According to witnesses, Peña looked for Mario inside the Christian Ventures Academy in Purok San Miguel, Brgy. Sum-ag, Bacolod City and introduced himself to the adviser as the child’s uncle. When they met, Peña badgered the child with questions about his family and other personal information, to which Mario gave short responses. The child hurriedly left and said he does not want to talk to Peña because he does not know him. When Christian Tuayon and his wife arrived at the school to fetch their son, they were informed by the school’s security guard of their son’s ‘visitor’. Christian showed the guard an ID of a person who was also looking for his wife in her workplace, and the guard confirmed that the same person came looking for her son. The ID card showed a picture of a police officer identified as PO3 Salt Alvarez Peña.
This was not the first time that Peña made a visit to Mario’s school. According to the school adviser, the same man came on January 31, 2017 and inquired about the child’s personal records, including their family’s address. Christian and his wife immediately went to the PNP Bacolod station and filed a blotter report. The Tuayon family refrained from going to their home that day and temporarily stayed at a relative’s house. When they went home, however, their neighbors alerted them that a man, again positively identified as Peña, came looking for them in their home. Local leaders are scheduled for a dialogue with the PNP regarding the incident, and especially because Peña’s ID shows he is a policeman, as well as a suspected intelligence officer.
Though considered as separate incidents, the threats to Quilina Ceballos and her sons, Christian Tuayon and his family, Dolly Celedonio, and Danny Tabura have prompted them to seek sanctuary for their security.
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate investigation of the separate incidents to be conducted by an independent body;
2. The immediate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators which include political clans who have direct ties to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and elements of the police;
3. An end to landgrabbing, as well as to the continued harassment, killings, and other human rights violations against farmers and peasant organizations;
4. An end to the targetting of activists and leaders of progressive organizations, and their families;
5. An end to counter-insurgency programs like Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan which encourage the use of ‘hit lists’ that target activists and civilians;
6. The Philippine Government to move towards the advancement of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) which will seek to address prevailing landlessness in the countryside, as well as free distribution of land;
7. The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly; and
8. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that is a party and signatory.
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