Peasants demand justice for 4 massacred inside military camp

PEASANT groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and human rights organization Karapatan condemned the killing of four peasants inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija last September 3.

According to KMP, the farmers were taking part in a land cultivation activity inside the reservation Saturday morning when a helicopter landed and delivered rifles near their area.

That same afternoon, goons connected to a certain Col. Rigor began firing at the farmers.

Farmers Gaudencio Bagalay, Violeta Mercado, Baby Mercado and Elegio Barbado were killed while Angelita Milan, also a farmer, and an unidentified boy were injured.

According to the protesters, the massacre stemmed from the land dispute between the farmers and the Philippine Army.

Three thousand and one hundred hectares of land inside FMMR are being claimed by about 5,000 farmers and their families.

In 1991, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) through then-secretaries Renato de Villa and Benjamin Leong, respectively, signed a Deed of Transfer, effectively awarding 3,100 hectares of land to the peasants through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Previous DAR administrations, however, failed to act on the farmers’ collective claims that led to the massacre, KMP said.

DAR’s national and regional officers also allowed land-grabbing activities and continued aggression from military and police elements as well as landlords and their goons, KMP added.

“This and other circuitous land disputes in many landholdings spawned from the failures of CARP,” KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores said in a press statement.

Flores also urged the current DAR administration to act on the Fort Magsaysay land dispute as soon as possible.

“DAR and its former national and regional officials are accountable for this pending agrarian dispute inside the military reservation,” Flores said.

Call for justice

KMP chairperson Joseph Canlas called on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate the role of the local police in the massacre as well as local government officials led by Palayan City mayor Arianne Cuevas, whose goons had allegedly been harassing the farmers prior to the massacre.

“Our call for justice will continue. We will also bring this up in Congress by way of a resolution in order that such violence against farmers is investigated. It is not just in Fort Magsaysay that peasant killings happen but in the entire country where violence and terror are caused by goons, the military and the police who are being ordered by the big landlords,” Canlas said.

The DILG assured the protesters that it would investigate the massacre. # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)