By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A 78-year-old peasant leader was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men inside his house in San Isidro, Laur town, Nueva Ecija, at around 4:45 p.m. Friday, July 9.
Pascual Guevarra is a senior leader of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 (Almana), which has been struggling for land ownership inside the 3,100 hectare Fort Magsaysay. The group is affiliated with Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The victim’s grandson, Ronnel Villoria, was also wounded when he tried to help his grandfather, the KMP said in a statement.
Guevarra is the second victim of extrajudicial killing under the new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. On July 5, Fernando Baldomero, a Bayan Muna coordinator in Aklan, was shot dead in front of his house in Lezo town.
Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, said he holds accountable the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army assigned at the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, for Guevarra’s death.
According to KMP, Guevarra led numerous dialogues with the 7th IDPA, particularly with Col. Hermino Barrios of the Judge Advocate Group’s Office (Jago) representing former AFP Chief Maj. Gen. Ralph Bangit, about the military’s alleged harassment of farmers. “The military could never deny that they had a hand in these as they totally control Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation,” Ramos said.
Guevarra also attended the dialogue at Camp Aguinaldo, with the representatives of the then secretary of Department of National Defense (DND) Gilbert Teodoro on Nov. 17, 2008, and countless dialogues with the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region III office and its central office regarding their struggle for land.
Struggle for Land
Pascual is one of some 6,000 peasants and other residents inside the Fort Magsaysay who should have acquired ownership of the land by virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and the DAR.
They were awarded Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
“He was already old but still fighting for his right to land. He walked around with loads of documents from DAR proving their claim. He was harmless and all he wanted was to keep their farm so that his grandchildren would have something,” Ramos said.
In a separate statement, Anakpawis Rep. and KMP chairman Rafael Mariano said that since 2008, the military has been instrumental in denying farmers in Fort Magsaysay their rights to own land. “It was the 7th ID itself who has requested the DAR to cancel the CLOAs given to peasants within the 3,100-hectare contested area,” Mariano said.
“This is very clear that Tatay Pascual’s struggle to land had made him a target of the state fascist forces. The military is obviously accountable as it happened inside their area of responsibility. They are in control of the area, they control whoever gets in or out, thus, it is impossible for the perpetrators to carry on their mission without the military’s knowledge,” Ramos said.
AMGL will lead a the fact-finding mission on Monday.
Concrete Action Urged
The KMP said it will hold a condemnation protest at Mendiola this Monday to push Aquino to immediately act and stop the killings. “He could not afford to be late and slow on the issue of extrajudicial killings in the country,” Ramos added.
“Mr. Aquino should immediately act on Ka Pascual’s killing and stop the military from evicting farmers inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation. It was during his mother’s term when the so-called transfer of the lands to farmers was initiated,” Mariano said.
Mariano is set to file a resolution calling for the immediate investigation on the killing of Guevarra and the Fort Magsaysay agrarian dispute. (Bulatlat.com)