MANILA -- Left-leaning groups are hiding several witnesses who can identify the gunmen that shot dead 9 sugarcane farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental earlier this month, police claimed Monday.
The fatalities, all members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), reportedly tried to occupy private land in Hacienda Nene, Barangay Bulanon last Oct. 20. They were eating dinner inside the tents when they were shot by 5 to 6 gunmen.
Some witnesses went into hiding on the suggestion of NFSW and rights group Karapatan's members who went to their houses, said provincial police chief Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, citing information from residents.
"Pinupuntahan po nila then nawala na iyung tao. Iyung mga witness natin unti-unting nawawala," he told radio DZMM.
(They would pay a visit then the witness would disappear. We are slowly losing our witnesses.)
The police legal office is planning its next move over this development, he said.
Police earlier claimed that the fatalities may have been "sacrificial lambs" who were killed to trigger outcry against the government.
Investigators, however, are not discounting the possibility that the victims were gunned down by a private army due to land feud, said Castil.
Nine witnesses, including a minor and relatives of the slain farmers, have identified 2 individuals who recruited the victims and allegedly left them at the hacienda before the massacre, he said.
Initial autopsy findings on the victims also indicate that many of them were shot from the back, he added.