Farmers in Buntog have been struggling for decades to assert their rights to the land, which they and their ancestors have lived in since 1911.
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Residents of sitio Buntog, barangay Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna face renewed threats of eviction after armed goons threatened farmers and ransacked two houses in the area, January 6.
According to Mario Mangubat, one of the residents, a demolition team allegedly hired by developers arrived at their house at around 3 p.m. and forced them out of their home. Guards then pointed their guns at Mangubat and his brother and forced them to the ground while the demolition team proceeded to destroy the walls of their house and their belongings.
“What they did was heartless,” Mangubat said in a phone interview with Bulatlat. “My wife was pleading with them, but they didn’t care.” He said that his nine-year old daughter, who had just recovered from an illness, was traumatized.
The ransacking lasted roughly 10 minutes before proceeding to the next house, where farmer Freddie Cacao and his three children live. The children were answering modules for their classes when the demolition team forcibly evicted them.
“They destroyed everything,” Mangubat said. “They destroyed the walls, the table; not even the toilet bowl was spared.”
After the destruction of property, the goons told the farmers that they will “tear down the roofs next time.”
Part of an ongoing struggle
Sitio Buntog is part of the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo, which spans the cities of Santa Rosa, Cabuyao, and Calamba in Laguna. Farmers in Buntog have been struggling for decades to assert their rights to the land, which they and their ancestors have lived in since 1911.
Decades of land grabbing and legal loopholes have allowed the Yulo family, and business interests like Ayala Land, Lucio Tan’s Eton Properties, the Lopezes, and others to obtain claims to the hacienda. The area spanning sitio Buntog and nearby sitios is contested by the Ayalas, with support from San Cristobal Realty Corporation.
In 2010, agents from San Cristobal Realty and the Yulo-owned Land Estate Development Corporation attempted to evict the farmers. Residents responded by barricading the entrances to the sitio. The stand-off eventually resulted in violence and the detention of 10 residents, including three minors.
San Cristobal renewed its efforts to evict the farmers last year. On August 24, armed guards with long rifles arrived to fence off and forcibly evict residents of Buntog. In nearby sitio Matang Tubig, goons burned down at least three homes and demolished others.
Development is currently underway. According to Mangubat, areas of Buntog and Matang Tubig have been fenced off and armed guards have been posted nearby.
“They have us under constant surveillance,” said Mangubat, describing the current situation in Buntog. “The security guards wait for when things are quiet before they come down to harass us.”
Mangubat, Cacao, and three other families are in one such fenced off areas; their neighbors have chosen to evacuate out of fear. Rough estimates place the number of affected families in the hundreds.
Residents are currently staging a campout to protect themselves against further attacks.
For his part, Mangubat remains adamant in their decision to stay. “We’ll fight for our land because that’s our right,” he said. “If they think they can scare us into leaving, they’re wrong. Attacks like this only strengthen our resolve.”