Bring to justice the killers of Filipino farm worker leader, end impunity

Joint statement
PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI)

Farmers and activists in Negros Occidental demanding justice for the slain National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) local leader Julius Broce Barellano on June 28. Photo by Christian Tuayon

We strongly condemn the recent killing of another farm worker leader in the Philippines. On June 27, Julius Broce Barellano died of gunshot wounds. Mr. Barellano was the chairperson of Hacienda Medina Farm Workers Association in Negros island in central Philippines. He was also a former radio reporter in a local radio station.

It is alarming that the killings related to land conflicts in the country continue and worsen with blatant impunity. Based on PANAP’s monitoring, there have been 97 victims of such killings in the Philippines from January 2017 to June 2018. Of that number, 59 are farmers or farm workers, 22 are indigenous people and 16 are land activists.

In the island of Negros alone, Barellano is the fourth local farmer/farm worker leader killed since January last year.

Apparently, the Philippines has been the deadliest country for rural peoples asserting their right to land. The 97 monitored victims of killings in the Philippines account for almost half of the total number of victims (200) that PANAP has monitored in 27 countries worldwide during the same period.

(See PANAP’s “Land and Rights Watch” for the full and detailed list of monitored cases of land conflict-related killings and other human rights violations.)

Before his untimely death, Barellano was leading the struggle of 140 farm workers in his village against a local landlord. Just a day before two motorcycle-riding men inflicted eight gunshot wounds on Barellano, the farm workers have clinched a third victory before a local court on the said land dispute.

We urge the authorities to swiftly conduct a probe to bring the perpetrators to justice. Given the key role that Barellano played in the farm workers’ campaign to stop a landlord from ejecting them from their land, we also ask the authorities to look at this angle as a possible motive in the killing.

Ensuring that those behind these politically-motivated killings will be prosecuted through the justice system will help turn the tide of impunity that has been long gripping the Philippines.

Barellano’s group is a local chapter of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and affiliated with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Agricultural Workers or UMA). UMA is a member of Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and one of PAN Asia Pacific’s (PANAP) partners in the Philippines. ###

Mr. P.P. Sivapragasam
Secretary General, CAWI

Ms. Sarojeni Rengam
Executive Director, PANAP