“Deprived farmers are faced with violent reprisal when they assert their rightful claim to land. This exposes CARP as instrumental to landlords while the majority of our farmers remain landless, poor, and hungry.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Groups condemned the violent arrest of 93 individuals, including agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), in Hacienda Tinang, Concepcion, Tarlac on Thursday, June 9.
According to the report of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the ARBs together with peasant advocates were peacefully holding a bungkalan or collective farming when members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and regional mobile group patrol came to the area, some bearing long firearms.
Authorities forcibly took peasant leaders of agrarian reform beneficiaries group, Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (Makisama-Tinang) namely Ophelia Cunanan, Alvin Dimarucot and three others members along with volunteers, supporters, peasant advocates who were members of Sama-Samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA, Artists’ Alliance for Genuine Agrarian Reform).
UMA said that those arrested are in police custody and reportedly charged with malicious mischief and obstruction of justice.
Cathy Estavillo, secretary-general of women peasant group Amihan said that the mass arrest and harassment faced by farmers and advocates at Hacienda Tinang showed “the uselessness of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).”
“Deprived farmers are faced with violent reprisal when they assert their rightful claim to land. This exposes CARP as instrumental to landlords while the majority of our farmers remain landless, poor, and hungry,” Estavillo said, adding their call for the immediate release of the farmers and their supporters and holding the police accountable.
Non-installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries
Farmers who are beneficiaries of agrarian reform have made their calls clear when they trooped to the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City on Tuesday, June 7, demanding the installation of some 236 legitimate ARBs who are all holders of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs).
They also submitted a manifestation opposing the DAR’s proposal for what they described as a tedious revalidation process, which they said will only favor the family of Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva.
The group said Villanueva is claiming ownership of the disputed land.
They added that Villanueva is reportedly attempting to install some 468 members of a local farmers cooperative, half of which already sold their rights to the family of the Tarlac solon.
UMA said that the disputed land is a 200-hectare sugarcane landholding which is part of the more than 1,200-hectares of land formerly owned by Benigno Aquino Sr. and inherited by the Aquino siblings including Antonio Urquico Aquino who later sold the land to Dominican priests.
“In 1988, the said landholding was placed under voluntary land transfer (VLT) by the Dominican Priests of the Phils. Inc. under Cory Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). The farmer-tenants then applied to become beneficiaries. They were awarded their CLOAS in 1998,” the group said.
In an earlier statement, Abby Bucad of Makisama-Tinang said the farmers decided to collectively cultivate the land in 2016 due to decades of non-installation (of land reform beneficiaries).
The following year, they filed a petition for installation and in 2018 and 2019, DAR issued a writ of execution and ordered with finality the distribution and installation of the ARBs. However, Bucad said that the order did not take effect.
“President Duterte’s term and that of DAR Secretary Bernie Cruz are ending but the farmers still do not have their land. DAR and Sec. Cruz only have less than a month to proceed with the installation of farmers in their land, Bucad said in Filipino.
“DAR has been remiss of its duty and obligation to implement a comprehensive and genuine agrarian reform. More than three decades after CARP was enacted, nine out of ten farmers remain landless. ARBs on the other hand, still cannot pay the land amortization under CARP,” UMA said.
Members of the NPA?
Supporters were also accused of being members of the New People’s Army, said SAKA in a statement.
When they asked for the basis of their arrest, one police officer replied: “NPA kayo.”
SAKA is a peasant advocate group whose members are artists.
The group said that “the police cornered them in a hut, dismantled its doors, then forced themselves into it to drive the others out. It was the local police chief, at the time wearing civilian clothes, who ordered that everyone be rounded up and brought to the Concepcion police station.”
“Such land cultivation, called ‘bungkalan,’ is a form of protest in which peasants—usually ARBs—assert ownership of land by planting agricultural products that primarily address their immediate need for food. It is a method of guaranteeing a peasant community’s own food security,” the group said in a statement.
“In the case of MAKISAMA, they aimed to grow rice and vegetables on land granted to them by DAR as early as 1998, but whose collective CLOA was seized by a cooperative run by a local family of bureaucrats, including the incoming Mayor,” they added.
Meanwhile, Agham Advocates of Science and Technology for the People called for the immediate release and dropping of all charges against the 87 persons arrested by the police.
They also called on DAR and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct an immediate and impartial investigation on such human rights violations against the ARBs and peasant advocates.
“We also challenge DAR to immediately resolve the chronic problem of landlessness among peasants in the country by fast-tracking the granting of lands. As we face another economic crisis brought by increasing fuel and food insecurity, we demand the government to provide more support to our farmers who provide food to our tables,” the group said. (RTS, RVO)
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