Landgrabbing has led to the gruesome murder of a farmer in Norzagaray, Bulacan and arson in Calamba, Laguna the last two weeks, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported.
Norzagaray farmer Rommy Torres was found stuffed inside a plastic drum in faraway Mabitac, Laguna last Friday after being reported missing last February 4.
Torres reportedly went to harvest bananas in his farm lot within a disputed 75.5 hectare area in Sitio Compra, Barangay San Mateo last February 2 but has since failed to come home.
The stench coming from the drum led residents to discover the body of Torres that bore gunshot wounds in the mouth, chest, and back.
Torres was among agrarian reform beneficiaries involved in a land dispute with Royal Moluccan Realty Holdings Inc. (RMRHI) whose guards have recently filed theft charges against 14 farmers who were harvesting bananas and coconuts inside the property.
In a statement, the KMP slammed the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for its continuing failure to 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 said.
Ramos said that the Office of the President (OP), in a decision dated December 29, 2015, had ordered that portions of the disputed land in Norzagaray which have been developed agriculturally prior to 1988 should be compulsorily acquired by the government for distribution.
The farmer families residing on the disputed land have been tilling the land since the 1960s, he added.
The peasant leader explained that an April 25, 2017 decision from the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) had already dismissed a petition from RMRHI, which was affirmed by a Court of Appeals decision last June 17, 2020.
The farmers of Norzagaray thus have a strong legal basis for their continued assertion of their rights to the land they reside in and tilled, the KMP said.
“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 said.
Both decisions failed in preventing DARAB sheriff Virgilio Robles Jr. from executing a demolition of the farmers’ homes in March 2018 and October 2019, however, KMP said.
Arson in Hacienda Yulo
Torres’ gruesome murder followed the arson of two houses within disputed properties in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna last January 22.
Houses belonging to Freddie Cacao and Mario Mangubat, members of the KMP-affiliated Samahan ng mga Magsasakang Nagkakaisa sa Buntog (Samana-Buntog), were torched by armed men believed to be employed by the Yulo-owned San Cristobal Realty, the KMP said.
The perpetrators dragged Cacao and wife Criselda at gunpoint before setting fire to the house, the group reported.
The same group set fire to Mangubat’s house an hour later while his wife Dottie was inside.
TERROR IN HACIENDA YULO: Mga gwardiya ng Hacienda Yulo, nanutok ng baril sa magsasaka
Last January 9, armed men also demolished two houses in the area while they trained high-powered guns on terrified residents, the KMP reported
The goons also attacked a certain Jojo De Leon while ransacking and destroying several houses.
The perpetrators also fired their guns that injured four farmers, KMP said.
San Cristobal Realty has reportedly entered into a deal with Ayala Land, Inc. for the construction of another high-end project in the area.
Samana-Buntog said government’s inaction in land disputes and the absence of a genuine land reform in the country had led to violence against them.
Samana-Buntog spokesperson Leo Mangubat said 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.
Mangubat said their ancestors had been tilling their farm lots since the 1910 Taal Volcano eruption.
“Our ancestors have been here way before the DoJ (Department of Justice) opinion of 1990, the CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) of 1988, and the Yulo family’s claim which began only in 1948,” Mangubat said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)