Open Letter from Canlaon City farmers group


The Editors:

Dear Sirs/Madam, here is an English translation of the statement of HUKOM, a farmers organization in Canlaon City. HUKOM’s chairman, Edgardo Avelino, was among the 14 farmers killed in Negros Oriental last March 30.

Stop Killing Farmers! Justice for the Canlaon 8!

April 1, 2019

Our organization, the Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma (HUKOM, or United Strength of Farmers) in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental expresses its strongest condemnation of the brutal operation led by the PNP- CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), SAF (Special Action Force), and 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on March 30, 2019, implemented in the ungodly hour of 3:00 in the morning in different villages of Canlaon City. This violently took away a total of eight (8) lives of innocent civilians and peasants in this city.

We cry out for genuine justice together with the families of the victims who were mercilessly and brutally killed. The victims were:

The brothers Edgardo “Gadong” Avelino, 59, a farmer, chairman of HUKOM, and Ismael Avelino, 53, a habal-habal motorcycle driver and chairman of the local drivers association under the federation PISTON, residents of So. Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan. Both were shot dead by no less than 5 to 10 armed men who were not in uniform and wore bonnets as they barged in the homes of the victims, around 3:00 in the morning. Gadong bore gunshot wounds in the head, face and chest, and an M16 rifle grenade was planted in his possession to justify the killing. His son, Esrael Avelino, 19, was punched in the stomach and dragged outside the house.

Ismael Avelino suffered 8 gunshot wounds in the body with bruisemarks on his face. His wife and children were forced outside the house when they suddenly heard shots inside.

Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, and Ricky Ricomuno, 28, farmers of So. Manggapa, Brgy. Masulog-1, were shot dead by uniformed armed men wearing bonnets after serving so-called “search warrants” to the father-and-son pair. Rogelio’s wife and Ricky’s mother, Lucia, was made to sign documents and was repeatedly interrogated.

This was also the case with the four others killed: Melchor Pañares, 67 and his son, Mario Pañares; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, and Genes Palmares, 54, who were all farmers.

We also condemn the illegal arrests of Corazon Javier and Azucena Garubat, a sister of the slain Avelino brothers, who are now detained at the Canlaon Police Station. They were arrested on based on trumped-up illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges as Corazon was planted with a grenade, while Azucena was planted with two rifle grenades in her sling bag.

These incidents illustrate how barbaric and bloodthirsty the mercenaries are in the military. The SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Managing Police Operation) or Oplan Sauron implemented in Canlaon is no different from the incidents which happened on December 27, 2018 in the nearby city of Guihulngan where 6 farmers were also killed, 50 were illegally arrested, many became victims of redtagging, forced evacuation and dislocation due to intense militarization in the countryside. This has sown fear among the residents especially the peasants who feed this whole country, the Philippines.

Despite this, we continue to stand and sow the seeds of struggle to achieve genuine justice for the peasants and the victims of Oplan Sauron or SEMPO.


Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma (HUKOM) – Canlaon City


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