SAGAY, Negros Occidental - Nine members of the left-leaning National Federation of Sugar Workers were shot dead by armed men here on Saturday night.
The victims reportedly tried to occupy private land in Hacienda Nene, Barangay Bulanon. They were eating dinner inside the tents when they were shot by 5 to 6 gunmen -- not 40 assailants as earlier reported -- said Sagay police chief, Chief Insp. Roberto Mansueto.
Gunshots were heard in the area for 5 minutes, he said.
The 9 fatalities succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds and burns. Among them were 2 minors and 3 women, Mansueto said.
Empty shells of various firearms were found in the area. A firearm was also recovered from one fatality, he added.
Several witnesses came forward but gave conflicting statements on the shooting, the police said.
Some of the fatalities were new members of the NFSW, their families said.
The organization has yet to issue a statement on the incident.
Rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, condemned the incident, saying it is "reflective of a kind of system that further strangles the victims of landlessness and poverty."
The group called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into the massacre.