LAS NAVAS, NORTHERN SAMAR – Villagers in the present-day barrio of Sag-od, Las Navas, Northern Samar, had gathered to commemorate a massacre that happened 36 years ago on September 15, 1981. Only thirteen villagers, at least 5 of them children, managed to live and retell the story.
Victims’ kin, survivors and rights groups came to the old barrio site, marked with white crosses, to witness the annual reenactment of the incident known today as the Sag-od Massacre.
Official accounts say that 45 barrio folks were rounded-up and shot by 18 armed men identified with the Special Forces-Integrated Civilian Home Defense Forces (SF-ICHD). The perpetrators were employed to protect the San Jose Timber Corporation owned by Juan Ponce Enrile, Defense Chief of former President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
San Jose Timber Corporation’s license to operate only expired in 2007. It was the largest logging concession, which covers 95,770 hectares of land, awarded to Enrile during Martial Law. Enrile, however, denies his knowledge of the massacre.
Meanwhile, a day after the reenactment, a protest-rally was staged in Las Navas town by families of victims together with rights group Katungod-Northern Samar and the Movement for Justice for Sag-od Massacre Victims.
Enriqueta Tuling, the Movement’s president, slammed the Marcos family for trying to “revise history” in their constant denial of human rights violations committed under the Marcos regime. Tuling also condemned President Rodrigo Duterte for “collaborating” with the Marcoses to incense the brutalities of martial law.
Elsa de la Cruz, one of the residents of Barrio Sag-od, shared that her father was among those killed. Dela Cruz was only 5 years old when orphaned.
Under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, Dela Cruz is entitled to receive a compensation for the death of her father. But Dela Cruz remarked, “(k)ulang pa iton nga ira iginbabayad sa amon. Bisan la an kamingaw san amo tatay, diri sira makabarayad.” [The compensation is never enough. They cannot compensate for the longing we feel for our father.]
Meanwhile, an official of the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion based in Northern Samar denied the culpability of government forces in the Sag-od Massacre.
In a live broadcast interview after the protest-rally, the unnamed Army official discredited the protesters and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), “Ang CHR po ay mahilig po sa panis na isyu na nireresikulo kasi nga mali ang facts na pinalabas nila. Wala pong kinalaman ang armadong pwersa ng Pilipinas (sa Sag-od Massacre).”
In Tacloban City, several groups commemorated the Sag-od massacre. A reenactment at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus was staged by the UP-based Northern Samar students organization Hingyap and the Metro Tacloban chapter of Gabriela Youth.
Peasant group Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB) lambasted the Duterte government’s record of human rights violations. In a video-post, it said that “despite the official lifting of Marcos’ Martial Law on January 17, 1981, the brutality and number of human rights violations continue to escalate under the present Duterte Regime, 36 years since.”
In Northern Samar, the New Peoples Army – Rodante Urtal Command expressed in a statement its “disgust and condemnation” to a looming bargain between the Duterte government and the Marcos family “over a few gold bars” in a possible exchange for the withdrawal of cases filed by the previous administrations.
The NPA-RUC spokesperson Amado Pesante warned of a possible declaration of martial law nationwide but said that even without a formal declaration, “state terror reminiscent to the dark ages of Marcos’ tyrannical rule persists in the hinterlands of Samar through Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan.”
Revolutionaries declared to exact justice for the victims of Sag-od massacre and frustrate the “US-Duterte regime’s authoritarian fantasies.”###