Five farm workers suspected as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in an encounter in Baras, Rizal last Dec 17.

A farmer’s group has denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the death of the five farmers.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) noted the military and police operation which they believed “bears the mark of summary execution-style killings.”

The five fatalities tagged as NPA officers and members were killed in a shootout  at 2:30 a.m. in Barangay San Juan last Dec. 17.

They were identified as Vilma Salabao, Carlito Zonio, Wesley Obmerga, and cousins Jonathan and Niño Alberga.

According to reports, State forces were looking for a certain Antonio Cule when the gunfight took place. Cule was a subject of an arrest warrant for frustrated murder in Infanta, Quezon, but he evaded arrest.

“All year round, there is no letup in the attacks and killings of farmers,” said KMP chair Danilo Ramos, noting that the five were the latest addition to the rising number of farmers and land reform advocates. 

The KMP said 295 farmers have been killed since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016.

The group is convinced that authorities are only using its usual “‘nanlaban” (resisted  arrest)  narrative to justify the killings of the five suspects.

“The military insists that the five were NPA fighters killed in a shootout but the victims’ relatives and neighbors attest that they were just farm workers tending the mango orchard farm,” Ramos said.

Salabao was a “cancer survivor” and was “staying in the mango farm with caretakers Obmerga and Zonio,” the KMP cited, adding the Alberga were “working as guards” of the farm.

He likened the incident to the killing of elderly National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Antonio Topacio in Angono, Rizal last month.

“The manner and procedure of the said AFP-PNP operation bears the mark of summary execution-style killings of red-tagged individuals and suspected NPA fighters,” Ramos said.

Source: Manila Bulletin (