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KMP: Land-grabbers murder farmer, burn down houses

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.

The drum where Rommy torres had been stuffed. (KMP photo)

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.

Investigators said the murderers poured concrete into the drum to further hide Torres’ remains. (KMP photo)

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.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: KMP reports more attacks against farmers in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog

“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.

A victim watches as their house burns to the ground. (KMP photo)

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)

Activists call for justice for ‘Sagay 9’

Progressive groups staged a ‘Black Friday Protest’ last October 26 at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) calling for justice for the nine victims of the Sagay City massacre earlier this month.

A candle lightning ceremony was also held to pay tribute to the martyrs of the said massacre.

National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) chairperson Rolando Rillo said that the Rodrigo Duterte government and the military must held accountable for the said massacre.

The landlord Tolentino and Marañon family and their private army are behind the massacre based on the account of the survivors, Rillo added.

NFSW stressed that their land cultivation activities are efforts to alleviate the suffering of farm workers and their families through planting of food to eat especially during dry season.

NFSW said that sugar farm workers only receive a salary of about 300-400 pesos per week and 70 percent of the sugar land earlier awarded to land reform beneficiaries have been leased back to landlords due to the lack of support of the government.

Rillo also scored DAR secretary John Castrisciones for his irresponsible statements justifying the massacre “as self defense” and asked that the secretary be relieved from his post.

The group condemned the Philippine National Police for its attempt to arrest a minor to be used as a witness against the victims and his fellow massacre survivors. # (Video by Joseph Cuevas and Maricon Montajes)

 

Farmers condemn Mariano’s rejection as DAR secretary

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the rejection of Rafael Mariano as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary and blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the Commission on Appointments (CA) decision Wednesday.

“The marching order to reject Ka Paeng came directly from Malacañang and President Duterte,” KMP in a statement said after the CA decision.

KMP blamed Duterte’s “fealty to landlords and oligarchs” for the CA’s decision, adding the chief executive “chose to throw away whatever reforms Mariano has started in DAR.”

The group said Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was among those who opposed Mariano’s confirmation because her husband Atty. Maneses Carpio is a legal counsel of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

“The Lorenzo family (owners of LFC) and Lapanday strongly contested Mariano’s installation of 153 farmer-beneficiaries of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) to the lands grabbed by Lapanday in Tagum City,” KMP said.

The Lorenzos also acquired the controversial Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the Cojuangco family.

The farmers group also said “militarists” in the Duterte cabinet led by Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año also lobbied for Mariano’s rejection.

“Lorenzana and Año connived with Mayor Duterte-Carpio in leading the governors of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental, through the Davao region’s Regional Development Council (RDC XI) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC XI) in blocking the confirmation of Mariano,” KMP said.

The Davao RDC, the opposition of Lapanday and Hacienda Luisita are among the reasons of the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejection of Mariano, KMP added.

KMP said the oppositors submitted a resolution dated May 11 this year to CA chairperson Sen. Aquilino Pimentel informing him of Mariano’s alleged “involvement” in the attacks by the New People’s Army on Lapanday.

The group said the document was based on fabricated “intelligence reports (that) smacked of a witch hunt that has been a feature of the Duterte government’s dirty and bloody counter-insurgency program.”

“Landlords like the Lorenzos and the Cojuangco-Aquinos have wrestled their way to get back control of DAR to favor and protect their interests,” KMP said.

“Mariano’s rejection is another proof that pro-US and militarist hawks are intent on ensuring that genuine socio-economic reforms – including free land distribution and other pro-farmer reforms at DAR advocated by Mariano – won’t prosper,” KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.

“It is consistent with the Duterte government’s refusal to address the socio-economic demands of farmers, and is part of the AFP’s arsenal perpetuating the people’s suffering,” Flores said.

CA committee on agrarian reform chairperson Senator Vicente Sotto III made the announcement on Mariano’s rejection, saying at least 13 members voted against the secretary.

“After an exhaustive deliberation and impartial scrutiny of the testimonies, endorsements, oppositions, and documents submitted, your committee called for a vote. In accordance with the results, in accordance with the rules, I should say, the weight of the scales ultimately tipped the balance against the confirmation of the appointee,” Sotto said.

As in the case of Mariano’s fellow National Democratic Front of the Philippines nominee to the Duterte Cabinet Judy Taguiwalo, the CA also did not announce the names of the 13 members who voted against the nomination.

Genuine peasant leader

KMP said CA’s rejection of DAR’s first genuine peasant secretary is an injustice to Filipino farmers.

“The decision of the CA to reject Mariano does not represent the demand and clamor of millions of farmers for a pro-farmer DAR,” KMP said.

“Behind Ka Paeng Mariano are two million members of KMP and their families, tens of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries and millions of rural poor and Filipinos aspiring for genuine agrarian reform, food sovereignty and peace,” the group said.

“Ka Paeng Mariano has staunchly stood by his position against the conversion of agricultural lands, the very policy that the elite-dominated Congress of landlords and capitalists wants to pursue and perpetuate,” it added.

KMP said Mariano is pursuing free land distribution, social services for farmers, food security for all Filipinos and significant reforms at DAR.

“There’s so much more to accomplish at DAR but militarists and pro-neoliberal elements in the Duterte regime and President Duterte himself are preventing genuine public servants like Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo to do their tasks,” KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peasants hold solidarity night for land reform

Thousands of farmers from all over the Philippines traveled to Metro Manila to participate in multi-sectoral activities marking the first 100 days of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

They held a solidarity night at the Department of Agrarian Reform multi-purpose gym Friday night (October 7) to underscore their continuing struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

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Appointed DAR secretary Mariano sings for land distribution

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s appointed Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano sings Asin’s “Gising na Kaibigan” at the 15th anniversary celebration of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)-Philippines Chapter.

Unknown to people outside of the progressive movement, Mariano loves to sing progressive songs and play the guitar.   Read more