Cagayan police abducts farmer; AFP harasses peasants opposing rubber plantation

CAGAYAN peasant group Kagimungan condemned the abduction of farmer leader Sofronio Pascua last July 17 in Tuguegarao City.

Pascua was arrested by four men in civilian clothing he suspected were police officer at one o’clock in the afternoon Monday.

“They trained a gun at me while ordering me to raise my hands. They forcibly took my phone and money away. They did not give me back my money,” Pascua said.

He later told Kagimungan members he was forced to lie face down inside a police vehicle and was beaten before being taken to a building in a secluded place.

While inside the vehicle, his abductors also took away his bag containing important documents and other personal property, Pascua said.

He said there were police officers in uniform around the safe house where he was taken and interrogated for about an hour.

Pascua was released after an hour without explanation without charges.

The victim is a resident of Barangay Banguian, Abulug, Cagayan where he is the local Anakpawis chapter leader. He is active in their group’s campaign for land distribution to poor farmers, Kagimungan said.

“This is clearly a human rights violation that shows the real face of the Duterte regime’s all-out war. The regime targets civilians, especially members of progressive and patriotic organizations,” Kagimungan’s Roderick Deric said.

Greening program as landgrabbing

Meanwhile, the peasant group also complained of ongoing military surveillance and harassments against farmers opposed to the government’s National Greening Program (NGP) projects in Baggao, Cagayan.

The group said elements of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army conducted surveillance operations in Sitio Kagurungan, Baranggay Awallan at Sitio Reggaay, Barangay Hacienda Intal last July 15 to intimidate six farmer leaders opposing the NGP.

The farmers are opposing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) plans to plant rubber trees under the NGP.

“This is simply land-grabbing as the lands they have identified have already been cultivated by the residents for generations,” Kagimungan-Baggao spokesperson Pacencia Mercado said.

The DENR and the local government unit have earlier held a consultation in Sitio Reggaay and promised the residents scholarships for students and medical assistance to farmers in exchange for the use of their lands.

“But the project could only mean the permanent loss of livelihood of the farmers,” Mercado said.

Kagimungan said they also received information that a military camp would soon be built in Sitio Reggaay because of the farmers’ ongoing campaign for land and opposition to the establishment of a rubber tree plantation.

“We have won over many other anti-farmer projects in the past. We are confident we will defeat these new schemes again,” Mercado added. # (Deo Montesclaros and Patricia Anne Lactao Guerrero)