Press Release
March 2, 2020

Sponsorship Speech
Senate Resolutions 65 & 47

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat:

As Chairman of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, it is my honor to report back to this august chamber the Committee Report on Senate Resolution No. 65 filed by Sen. De Lima and Senate Resolution No. 47" filed by Sen. Hontiveros, both directing the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to conduct an inquiry on the spate of killings in Negros Island.

When we were but children, Mr. President, we were probably taught this simple rhyme: 'roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you.' Years after, we now find ourselves in this chamber as adults, Mr. President, and we have long learned the lesson taught by life; the sweetness of sugar is, more often than not, bought with the salty sweat of hard labor, of landless farmers, and the bitterness of the heartless elite, of the landed few.

Here in the Philippines, in the Negros Islands in particular, Mr. President, the situation is even worse. Sugar, in its sweetness, seems to have been paid for by the blood of those who are powerless to fight back. But perhaps, we are getting ahead of our story.

Ginoong Pangulo, nabalot ng takot ang isla ng Negros dahil sa sunod-sunod na patayan sa probinsya. Magsasaka, pulis, opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan, abogado, at masunuring mga mamamayan ang naging biktima ng madugong krimen sa probinsya ng Negros Occidental at Negros Oriental.

Mr. President, I can still remember when I was still the Chief Philippine National Police (PNP), I, together with President Duterte, visited the wake of six police officers and a civilian in Guihulngan City who were killed in an ambush staged by lawless groups. Several police officers were also injured on the same incident - tila wala talagang pinipiling biktima at hindi kumikilala sa batas ang mga nagpapalaganap ng karahasan sa islang ito.

This string of killings struck fear and horror among our kababayans in Negros Island, two provinces known for its vast sugar plantations, unspoiled pristine beaches and historical tourist destinations.

To suppress the lawless violence and acts of terror that taints the precious island, the President, through Memorandum No. 32 issued on November 22, 2018, ordered the deployment of additional forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP in the provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. In implementing the directives of the President, the Police Regional Office 7 launched the Simultaneous Enhanced Managing of Police's Operations (SEMPO). This was done in collaboration with 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army; Philippine Coast Guard - District Central Visayas (PCG-DCV), NAVFORCEN, PN; U3 CENTCOM and MIG43, ISAFP. OPLAN SAURON is a special part of the 13th PRO7 SEMPO and 2nd PRO-wide level dubbed as "Post-Christmas SEMPO." The operations were intended in select areas of Negros Oriental focused in the simultaneous implementation of search warrants against AFP-identified Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) personalities and bearer of loose firearms.

OPLAN Sauron resulted to 27 arrested individuals, 32 targets were neutralized while 6 died in police operation. Also, there were 514 ammunitions, 99 firearms and 12 explosives seized. The OPLAN had a massive effect on the residents of Negros Oriental who were possessing loose firearms. A total of 31 firearms were voluntarily surrendered.

With the continued episodes of killings, OPLAN Sauron 2.0 was implemented. It ran against personalities linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples' Army, and the National Democratic Front, particularly in the towns of Ayungon, Canlaon City, Guihulngan City, Mabinay, Manjuyod, Siaton, Santa Catalina, Tanjay City, and Vallehermoso in the first congressional district of Negros Oriental. There were 16 individuals arrested while 14 died in the police operation during OPLAN Sauron 2.0. Several firearms, explosives and ammunitions were also seized.

Mr. President, despite these government interventions, violence continued in the island. In the month of July 2019 alone, sixteen were murdered including four (4) policemen, a lawyer, a school principal, a barangay captain, a former mayor and a 1year old baby.

Ginoong Pangulo, lumabas sa naging pagdinig ng komite ang isang vigilanteng grupong tinawag na KAGUBAK o Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (in tagalog Kilusan ng TagaGuihulngan Laban sa Komunista). This alleged anti-communist group has a "hit list" that targets "suspected NPA sympathizers". The hit list contains 15 names. Unfortunately, 5 of those names have been victims of the recent lawless killing - sunud-sunod na pagkapatay ng mga taong kasama ang pangalan sa naturang listahan.

During the Committee hearing, the Commission on Human Rights in Region 7 also submitted a second 'hit list' containing a different set of names. On the list were eleven (11) barangays in Guihulngan, and thirty-seven (37) names of persons, identified by the list as alleged supporters and symphatizers of the CPP/NPA/NDF. Although most of the names of the list are hardly readable, Mr. President, the Committee was able to identify Romeo Alipan, Barangay Captain of Buenavista, Guihulngan City, as among those named in the list, and is already dead.

Mr. President, we have the responsibility to probe these series of killings and spread of violence for us to craft a policy to ensure peace and order in Negros and to prevent this from happening to other parts of the country. We cannot let this continue, Mr. President. We owe it to the Negrenses to restore the law and order situation in their provinces.

Your Committee has directed its attention to the factors that led to the increase of insurgency related killings, the effectiveness of the counter-insurgency measures of the national and local governments, as well as the possible administrative and legislative measures in order to stop the string of violence and hostilities in the area.

This prolonged unrest could be drawn from the appalling poverty situation and the escalating insurgency problem in the provinces. However, this is old news, Mr. President.

Official data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show taht will show that in 2018, national poverty incidence was at 16.6%, while it was 26.1% in Negros Oriental. Over the past years, Negros Oriental has been consistently one of the top 10 poorest provinces in the country. Adding to this, Negros Oriental has the second highest hunger incidence of 19.5% of families, next to Northern Samar. Negros Occidental and Oriental also registered to have the highest magnitude of poor population or a high number of families whose annual per capita income falls below the poverty threshold. Sa madaling salita, Mr. President, karamihan sa nakatira sa isla ng Negros ang salat sa buhay.

It is alarming, Mr. President, that the areas affected by the mass killings on March 30, 2019 namely, Manjuyod, Santa Catalina and Canlaon City, registered high poverty incidence rates of 33.6%, 43.1% and 42.3% respectively.

But, Mr. President, let me state for the record that Negros Island is not poor in natural resources. It's still renowned as the "sugarbowl" of the Philippines - producing majority of the total raw sugar in the country. Despite this, ownership of land is concentrated to a few elites in the island.

The landless sugar plantation workers continued to till the soil with their sweat and blood, while the sugar plantation owners continued to reap boundless economic gains, at the expense of the rights and interests of their workers. And in the face of this widening social gap, Mr. President, do we still have the gall to wonder why it is that there are those who have resorted to violence? Must we still look for the cause of the unrest? Is it not true that the root cause is staring at us right in the face, no matter how hard we try to sugar-coat it?

Mr. President, evident social inequality in Negros Island between the hacienderos and the sugar farmers raises aggression and resistance among the working class, thereby igniting their rebellious mindset and principles, and cultivating a fertile breeding ground for insurrection.

Luckily, Mr. President, the Duterte Administration wants to cut the roots of insurrection to prevent it from growing. Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, was issued to formulate the National Peace Framework and to address the "root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions" for Filipinos to enjoy a safer and secure communities. Social welfare and development programs have been, and are being implemented to alleviate the lives of the Negrenses, thereby, removing poverty as the key element to which the instigator of armed conflict clings.

Notwithstanding these efforts, Mr. President, we still need to ensure that our current laws and regulations are enough to deliver and serve justice to all the victims of this series of killings. We want to guarantee that justice will be served, and that the perpetrators of the barbaric murders will be punished. But we only seem to be running in circles, Mr. President, because ensuring that the perpetrators will be punished presupposes that we have a definitive idea of who these perpetrators are. However, this is precisely what remains lost to us. Among the findings of the Committee, Mr. President, is the seeming endless blame game between the military and the police on one end, and the Communist groups on the other. A Human Rights Watch dispatch in Negros has noted that both sides have been implicated in human rights abuses. What is sad, Mr. President, is that in the process, real farmers, with real families, are made to suffer.

With this Mr. President, as part of the Report, some of the recommendations of the Committee are as follows:

Give administrative and budgetary support to the full implementation of Executive Order 70 providing for a wholeof-Nation approach in defeating the Local Communist Terrorist Groups. Towards this end, support must likewise be extended to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC);

Provide adequate socio-economic and psycho-social assistance to the families of individuals who were killed;

Intensify anti-insurgency operations in identified rebel infested areas in Negros Islands, but with due regard to the protection of human rights, and observance of the established principles of due process of law;

Identify the perpetrators of the killings of individuals named in the alleged KAGUBAK List and the alleged list of names in Vigilante Negros / Anti-Com, and file appropriate criminal charges against them;

Sustain and bolster on-going investigations in order to identify the people behind KAGUBAK, and Vigilante Negros/AntiCom, and file the appropriate criminal charges against them;

Deployment of additional forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police in order to secure the Provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, and if possible, the neighboring provinces; and to augment local police in the said provinces, to better address the security needs of the people;

Deploy more Commission on Human Rights Investigating Officers in Negros Islands for the continuing investigation of complaints or allegations of violations of human rights and abuses committed against the local residents, the police or military; and if the facts and evidence warrant, file the appropriate cases against those liable, and be held accountable for human rights abuses;

For the PNP and AFP to review, evaluate and report to the President the effectiveness of Oplan Sauron in the objective to suppress and end lawless violence in the Negros Island;

Pursue amendments to Republic Act 9372, otherwise known as The Human Security Act, by considering the series of killings or violence as acts of terrorism, with the end goal of creating public emergency, and/or that which undermines public safety.

Mr. President, I submit this Committee report for the consideration of this august chamber.

Maraming salamat po.

News Latest News Feed