MANILA -- The 9 sugarcane farmers who were killed by unidentified gunmen at a plantation in Sagay, Negros Occidental over the weekend were not beneficiaries of the government's land distribution program, the Department of Agrarian Reform said Monday.
The farmers had just finished setting up a land cultivation area (LCA) in Hacienda Nene on Saturday when they were gunned down inside tents by 5 to 6 assailants, initial reports said.
The estate is not covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) because its ownership had been transferred through a deed of donation, said DAR Secretary John Catriciones.
This is why a notice of CARP coverage for the hacienda was declared "defective" in 2014, he told radio DZMM.
In occupying the private land, the farmers emulated the style of militant group Kadamay, which stormed and took over government housing projects in several occasions, he said.
"Ang nangyari po d'yan ay parang land occupation. Ibig sabihin, bigla nilang pinasok, nung mga magsasaka na apparently, hindi naman po sila mga beneficiary," he said.
(What happened there is similar to a land occupation. It means that the farmers entered the estate even though they are not beneficiaries.)
"Iyung pagpasok po ng mga magsasaka d'yan, sa lugar na inoccupy po nila, parang style ng Kadamay," he added.
(Their entry into the area that they occupied was done in the style of Kadamay takeovers.)
DAR, he said, will give a press conference to address police information that the hacienda was offered for lease by its owner.
Catriciones added that "private goons" may be behind the attack, where the military and police had no hand.
"Wala pong partisipasyon ang mga military at mga pulis dito kaya hindi po nila po puwedeng isisi sa pamahalaan," he said.
(The military and the police had no participation so the government cannot be blamed for this.)
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares earlier said the administration should be held responsible for the event because a military official had claimed that LCAs were in fact farms for communist rebels.
Malacañang, meanwhile, ordered a thorough and impartial probe into the "dastardly" attack.