NEWS | Continuous land-grabbing leads to murder and violence against farmers

Photo from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

Continued land-grabbing and attacks to the peasant sector led to cases of murder, arson, and harassment. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported the murder of Ka-Rommy Torres, a farmer in Norzagaray, Bulacan and arson in Calamba, Laguna which stemmed from land-grabbing from the last two weeks. Peasant advocates call for immediate stop of the series of attacks and accountability from the government for failing to defend the peasant sector.

Murder in Bulacan
Torres was found inside a plastic drum in Mabitac, Laguna last February 5 after being reported missing last February 3. He is reported to be the 315th peasant victim of political killing under Duterte’s regime since 2016.

According to reports, Torres went to harvest bananas in his lot within a disputed 75.5-hectare area in Sitio Compra, Brgy. San Mateo last February 2 but has since failed to come home. The victim’s body was found with gunshot wounds in the mouth, chest, and back.

Torres was an agrarian reform beneficiary involved in a land dispute with Royal Moluccan Realty Holdings Inc. (RMRHI).
In a statement, the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women (AMIHAN) condemned the brutal killing of Torres and called out the Duterte regime for neglecting the demand of the farmers and peasant women in the country for land and livelihood.

“Torres was one of the regular suppliers of fresh agricultural products usually offered in many agro-ecology food fairs and activities. His killing is an undermining of the people’s movement to promote the close linkages of the producer and the consumer sectors amid the pandemic. We urge the many agro-ecology advocates to join the call for justice,” Amihan National Chair Zenaida Soriano said.

Kabataan Partylist also joined in calls for justice for Torres’ death. The organization seeked for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and other government agencies’ help to deliver speedy justice to the gruesome death of Torres.

Arson in Hacienda Yulo
Before the gruesome murder of Torres, an arson of two houses was reported within disputed properties in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna last January 22. The two houses were owned by Freddie Cacao and Mario Mangubat who are both members of the KMP-affiliated Samahan ng mga Magsasakang Nagkakaisa sa Buntog (Samana-Buntog).

According to KMP, Cacao’s and Mangubat’s houses were incinerated by armed men who were suspected to be employed in the Yulo-owned San Cristobal Realty.

They added that the perpetrators reportedly dragged Cacao’s wife, Criselda, at gunpoint before burning their house down.

An hour later, the same group went to Mangubat’s house and burned it down while Mangubat’s wife, Dottie, was inside.

KMP also reported that last January 9, armed men demolished two houses in the area while they trained high-powered guns on terrified residents. The men also attacked a certain Jojo De Leon while ransacking and destroying several houses. Four farmers were also reportedly injured from the event.

San Cristobal Realty has reportedly entered into a deal with Ayala Land, Inc. for the construction of another high-end project in the area.

Continued Struggle of Peasant Sector

In a statement, the KMP slammed the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for once again failing to protect farmers from land-grabbing by landlords and corporations.

“The DAR should be more proactive in resolving land dispute cases, especially when the entities involved employ violence and terror. In this case, instead of protecting the farmers and ensuring their right to the land, DAR watched from afar. The hands of DAR Secretary John Castriciones are stained with blood,” KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos stated.

Ramos also mentioned that the Office of the President (OP) ordered that portions of the disputed land in Norzagaray should be compulsorily acquired by the government in a decision dated December 19, 2015.

He then explained that on April 25, 2017, the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) already dismissed a petition from RMRHI, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals decision last June 17, 2020. With this, the farmers of Norzagaray have a strong legal basis of their right to the land.

“They have dutifully complied with legal processes as they faced the illegal and savage acts of Royal Moluccan. Meanwhile, DAR watched from afar as Royal Moluccan’s goons evicted the farmers, fenced their lands, and continually harassed them after, chasing them further off as they tried living on the margins of what was once their farm lots,” Ramos reiterated.

Samana-Buntog also slammed the government’s inaction in land disputes and the absence of genuine land reform in the Philippines resulted in violence against them.

Samana-Buntog spokesperson Leo Mangubat stated that the government has exempted portions of Hacienda Yulo from industrial development since the early 1990s but are yet to be given to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

He added that their ancestors had been tilling their farm lots since the 1910 Taal Volcano eruption, reiterating that they have been there way before the Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion of 1990, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of 1988, and the Yulo family’s claim which began only in 1948.

Furthermore, the KMP has also appealed to the CHR to conduct an investigation regarding the matter and to assist in the filing of charges against the perpetrators.

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