By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The niece of one of the farmers killed during the ‘Sagay 9’ incident blames the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) for the tragedy.
According to a statement by Nove Bantigue, niece of slain NFSW farmer Rannel Bantigue, she said her uncle was recruited by NFSW organizer Rene Manlangit and promised a parcel of land in Hacienda Nene.
Nove said her uncle was a member of the organization for two days before he was gunned down.
She added, her family was surprised of his decision to join the group since her uncle had a previous land dispute with Manlangit.
“My mother, Josephine Bantigue, wife of Ronnel’s brother, is a former member of agrarian reform of Task Force Mapalad (TFM),” she explained. “It is also an association that aims to acquire land for farmers.”
“Unlike NFSW, TFM does not believe in armed struggle,” the victim’s niece added. “They are [a] legal organization and do not have NPA as armed protector.”
She noted, TFM had earlier planned to grow and harvest crops in Hacienda Nene but the tenant, Tessie Cabras, responded by filing robbery and grave coercion charges against the group.
“At the time [the] warrant of arrest was released, Manlangit even escorted the police officers to my mother’s location,” Bantigue said. “My mother was jailed for six days but was released after the tenant decided not to pursue the case.”
The niece explained, when the incident occurred, there were around 15 new NFSW recruits, including her uncle, who she believes was enticed by Manlangit.
She also claimed Manlangit was present during the shooting and contacted police.
“He was there,” Bantigue affirmed. “Manlangit even reported the incident to the police and informed them, with the intent to delay their response, of an exaggerated 40 number of assailants – why [would] he do that?”
She added, families of the victims strongly believe NFSW was behind the incident and lives could have been saved if Manlangit had not “deceived” authorities.
In response to the accusations, NFSW pointed out Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo are being charged in the case, adding, they also had family members killed in the incident.
The group said they welcome a National Bureau of Investigation probe into the shooting./DGB, WDJ