Outrage as Philippines probes farmer ‘massacre’

Protesters shout slogans during a rally outside a police and a military camp to protest the weekend killings of nine farmers in central Philippines. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Outrage as Philippines probes farmer ‘massacre’

  • Up to 40 gunmen attacked a group of about 25 people who had entered the plantation near the city of Sagay just hours earlier to sow their own crops
  • Previously, nine farmers were gunned down in a sugar plantation in central Philippines

MANILA: Philippine authorities said Monday they have launched a probe into the mass slaying of nine farmers gunned down after taking over part of a sugar plantation to grow food for themselves.
The deadly attack has provoked outrage in the Philippines, as well as criticism of Manila’s slow-moving program to redistribute farmland to millions of sharecroppers — tenant farmers who give a part of each crop as rent — who remain mired in poverty.
The violence erupted Saturday on the central island of Negros, the center of the nation’s sugar industry and home to some of the country’s wealthiest landowners as well as some of its poorest farm workers.
Up to 40 gunmen attacked a group of about 25 people who had entered the plantation near the city of Sagay just hours earlier to sow their own crops.
“This was... a grim reflection of the decades-old failure of the government’s agrarian reform program to extricate poor Filipino farmers from vicious and degrading cycle of poverty,” Senator Leila De Lima said.
Authorities said they were investigating reports the farmers were killed by “goons” employed by either the landowner or entities that leased the land.
“We vow to mobilize all available resources to ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” Philippine national police chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters.
The Philippines passed a law in 1988 to redistribute public and private agricultural lands to landless farm workers.
Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones said his ministry has handed out 4.8 million hectares (12 million acres) to nearly three million people, but more than 800,000 hectares have yet to be broken up.
“There are areas such as these where we have not really been able to distribute (land titles), and maybe that’s one reason why some of our farmer brethren resorted to farming land that is not their own,” he said.
Lawsuits are either delaying or completely stopping the effort in some areas, including the Sagay plantation where the violence occurred, he added.
Farm workers account for about 20 million people, a fifth of the Philippine population, who live on less than two dollars a day, the government says.
“Children in Negros work in haciendas (plantations) together with their families because of poverty due to government’s neglect,” the children’s rights group Salinlahi Alliance said Sunday, denounced the killing as a “massacre.”


Pakistan PM Khan speaks with India’s Modi to congratulate him on election win

Updated 26 May 2019
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Pakistan PM Khan speaks with India’s Modi to congratulate him on election win

  • Modi shocked many with his decisive victory in this election
  • Tensions have flared between the two countries earlier this year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday spoke to Narendra Modi and congratulated the Indian leader on the runaway election victory of his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both countries said on Sunday.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in the Lok Sabha elections in India,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples.”
Tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, flared in February with cross-border air strikes and a brief battle between fighter jets above Kashmir.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs confirmed Khan had called Modi on Sunday, adding the two leaders had discussed fighting poverty together.
“He (Modi) stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region,” the ministry added in a statement.