The KMP challenged the Duterte administration to give justice to the victims of the Fort Magsaysay carnage and hold the perpetrators accountable.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Four farmers were shot dead Sept. 3 by suspected goons of a police officer at Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija.
According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), armed men opened fire at the farmers who were then resting. After the shooting, which lasted for almost half an hour, Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay, all of whom are members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa (Almana) 3100, lay dead.
The bodies were retrieved under a hut on Sept. 4 at around 2 a.m., the KMP said.
Another farmer, Angelita Milan, was wounded and was brought to the PJG Memorial Hospital in Nueva Ecija.
The victims were involved in the land cultivation campaign inside the 3,100-hectare Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation.
The KMP challenged the Duterte administration to give justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable.
Joseph Canlas, KMP acting chairperson, said they have all the reason to believe that the killing is linked to the long-standing land problem in Fort Magsaysay. He added, however, “the ‘execution-style killings’ of suspected drug addicts and drug lords have further emboldened goons and private armies of landlords to suppress legitimate assertion of democratic rights of farmers.”
The group said that based on initial reports, the armed men were goons hired by a certain Col. Rigor of the Nueva Ecija Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. The KMP said that at around 12 noon of Sept. 3, a private helicopter landed in the area being claimed by Rigor.
The Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) was placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). On November 5, 1991, the administration of then President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino awarded 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation to over a thousand landless peasants, as well as to families evacuating from Pampanga after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The awarding was formalized with the issuance of a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung.
Canlas said that by virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the Department of National Defense and the Department of Agrarian Reform, some 6,000 peasants and other residents should have acquired ownership of the lands they live on and till. “But the CLOAs [certificate of land ownership awards] were rendered useless because it failed to defend the farmers’ rights over the lands,” Canlas said.
Since 2008, the military, particularly the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has been calling for the cancellation of the CLOAs.
On July 9, 2010, Almana 3100 peasant leader Pascual Guevarra, 78, was shot dead inside his house by a lone gunman also in barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija.