06/27/2023, 20.39
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Activists accuse military of killing farming family in Negros Occidental

by Stefano Vecchia

The massacre took place in mid-June in a region where the communist insurgency has been fighting against the Philippine state for decades. Local authorities had targeted the Faustos for a while. Various farmers' associations were summoned to sign a resolution against the Communist Party.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Four members of a family of sugar workers, active in the local farmers' association, the Baclayan, Bito, Cabagal Farmers and Farmworkers Association (BABICAFA), were shot dead on 14 June in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

According to human rights groups, the Philippine military, which arbitrarily linked the victims to a communist rebel group, is responsible for the murders.

The Fausto family – Roly Fausto (52), his wife Emelda Fausto (50), and their two sons Ben (15) and Ravin (11) were gunned down at their home. In total, police found 54 M16 bullet shells at the crime scene.

Although some neighbours heard gunshots around 10 am, they did not raise the alarm. The bodies were found the next morning by the dead couple’s daughter who lives nearby.

The Faustos belonged to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a religious group suspected by the authorities of subversive activities.

According to Philippine online news website Rappler and local witnesses, the Fausto family had been in the authorities’ crosshairs for quite a while, seen as rebels, subjected to pressure and searches without warrants, even torture.

In mid-May, they reported a break and entry in their home, following a clash between the military and alleged rebels near the town of Kabankalan, that left two soldiers wounded and an alleged communist rebel, a farmer named Crispin Tingal Jr, dead.

As a result, thousands of residents living in this predominantly rural area, were forced to flee, a situation that is not new.

Negros Island saw thousands of people die or go missing in the 1970s during a communist insurgency against the regime of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986), father of the current president.

Human rights organisations blame the 94th Infantry Battalion for the Faustos’ death. For months, the 94th has been waging a campaign of terror, starting on 9 January with the alleged kidnapping and killing of a farmer called Jose Gonzales.

By contrast, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claim that the Fausto family were killed by the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In connection with this, five farmers' organisations have already complained that they had been summoned to sign a statement against the CPP and the NPA. According to these groups, the 94th battalion pressured their leaders to go along with the military’s claim.

For human rights groups, the Faustos’ death is directly linked to these events. In a statement, Peter Murphy, chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) Global Council, demanded justice for the victims, calling on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to repeal laws that place some areas of the country under de facto martial law.

Since he took office a year ago, 24 farmers have been killed by government forces in Negros alone.

Photo: Himamaylan City Police Station

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