Hundreds of farmer-activists from Bicol complained of harassment when members of the Quezon Province police blocked their caravan on its way to Manila Sunday night.
The Provincial Public Safety Company-6th Maneuver Platoon of the Philippine National Police (PNP) blocked Lakbay Paraoma’s 28 buses, a jeep and a van at around 7:30 last night led by a certain Major Morillo in Barangay Talipan, Pagbilao in Quezon province.
Lakbay Paraoma is the Bicol Region contingent of the ongoing nationwide Lakbay Magsasaka to Metro Manila for a series of events demanding genuine agrarian reform.
In the convoy was the vehicle of Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao who joined the peasant caravan from Bicol to Manila.
The PNP issued traffic violation tickets against the 28 caravan bus drivers who they alleged were not wearing seatbelts.
Two bus drivers signed the tickets and were fined PhP5,000 each while the others refused, saying they were wearing seatbelts.
Bus driver Dude Villareal admitted he was not wearing a seatbelt but insisted it was harassment to derail the caravan.
“We will continue to fight for the rights of the farmers. The PNP will always find ways, such as issuing bogus violations to silence the protesters,” Bert Author, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB-KMP), said.
While negotiations were ongoing, caravan participants cooked dinner and threatened to stage an impromptu rally should the PNP refused to let them through.
The PNP subsequently revoked the traffic violation citations, saying it was a mere misunderstanding, alternative media outfit Baretang Bikolnon reported.
The caravan arrived at Calamba, Laguna past midnight where they spent the rest of the night.
They will join the farmers from Mindanao at the protest camp-out at the Department of Agrarian Reform before their major protest rally at Mendiola on October 25. (Raymund B. Villanueva/With reports from and photo by Baretang Bikolnon)