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Killing of Family Sparks Inquiry in Philippines

Massacre on Negros Island Latest in Series of Abuses

A demonstration at the inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Plaza Miranda, Manila, June 30, 2022.  © 2022 Ryan Eduard Benaid/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/AP Images

The killing of a family on June 14 on Negros in the central Philippines is the latest in a decades-long cycle of violence, human rights abuses, and impunity on the island.

That night, unidentified armed men raided a hut in Buenavista village, Negros Occidental province. The next morning, neighbors found the bodies of Roly Fausto, 55, his wife Emelda, 50, and their children Ben, 15, and Ravin, 12.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killings. But both government forces and the communist New People’s Army (NPA), who have been fighting each other for more than 50 years, have a history of committing abuses on the island.

The human rights group Karapatan and other organizations blamed the military. They claimed the military had previously identified the couple as communist militants –  a practice known as “red-tagging” – and harassed them. The groups said that in March last year the military coerced Roly to act as a guide for soldiers as they hunted down rebels.

Supporters of the couple allege the killing was the result of a counter-insurgency campaign gone wild. Government forces have targeted and killed activists  – not just alleged rebels – on the island, often preceded by red-tagging and harassment.

The military and police blamed the NPA. The provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are known NPA strongholds. The government claims the rebels killed the Faustos because they helped the military – an assertion relatives and supporters of the family deny. The NPA has executed a number of Negros residents – the last one earlier this month – for allegedly spying for the military. The rebel group admits those killings, but it condemned the massacre of the Fausto family.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights has launched an investigation into the killings. The commission is probably the only credible domestic institution that can conduct fact-finding with any measure of independence and impartiality. Foreign governments that are concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines, particularly the United States and those from the European Union, should denounce the atrocities – whoever is responsible – and press the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to take steps to end abuses on Negros.

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