Groups condemn mass arrest of farmers, advocates in Tarlac

By Joseph Cuevas

Various organizations condemned the arrest and detention of more than 90 farmers, ;and rights advocates and journalists on Thursday Brgy. Tinang, Concepcion, Tarlac, eve of the 34th anniversary of the government’s failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

In an indignation protest Friday at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City, women peasant group Amihan demanded the release of 93 farmers beneficaries and members of Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang) and peasant advocates who were conducting land cultivation of a property they said were already awarded to them through CARP.

The Concepcion police also arrested two reporters and 11 campus journalists present during the incident.

“The violent attack perpetrated by 20-30 policemen and some civilians was overkill. Some of the farmers and supporters sustained bruises and minor wounds,” Amihan secretary general Catherine Estavillo said.

Estavillo blamed the DAR for the slow resolution of the land dispute between the arrested beneficiaries and a local farmers’ cooperative.

“We also hold them (DAR) accountable for the incident. The farmer-beneficiaries have been collectively cultivating their lands since 2016 and petitioned for installation in 2018 and 2019. Since then, even though they issued a writ of execution and ordered with finality for the distribution and installation of the farmer-beneficiaries, the order was not executed,” Estavillo said.

PNP Concepcion arrested several individuals including peasant advocates (Photo courtesy: Altermidya)

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the 236-member MAKISAMA-Tinang are rightful holders of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) first issued in 1995 under the CARP.

KMP added those arrested were exercising their right to till a portion of the 200-hectare land awarded to them with finality by DAR issuances in 2018 and 2019.

The CLOA was instead issued to cooperative called Tinang Samahang Nayon Multipurpose Cooperative Incorporation which is connected to the powerful family of then Congressman and now incoming Concepcion mayor Noel Villanueva, the group revealed.

Last May 24, the DAR made an improper validation survey that only favored Mayor Villanueva who is contesting the installation of the 236 ARBs.

In their latest dialogue at the DAR Central Office last June 7, officials promised that the Tinang farmers will be installed before the month ends.

KMP also added that the incident highlights the utter failure of addressing the country’s persistent land problem, belying the Duterte regime’s claims of a legacy in land reform like CARP.

In Concepcion, the 93 mass arrest victims were slapped with illegal assembly and malicious mischief charges and were told to pay Php39,000 each for their temporary liberty.

They have spent nearly 36 hours in intense heat in a shack at the Concepcion PNP headquarters as of Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has asked for donations for bail money of the Manila Bulletin and Davao Today reporters and 11 campus journalists from various student publications in Central Luzon.

Human rights group Karapatan also call for the dropping of charges against the 93 individuals and asked the incoming mayor to stop any forms of harassment against farmers and advocates. # (With reports from Raymund Villanueva)