Farmers ask gov’t to bare El Niño action plan to address irrigation water shortage

By Nuel M. Bacarra

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called on the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s El Niño Task Force to lay down concrete plans to address irrigation problems farmers are starting to face since the weather phenomenon started.

According to the farmers’ group, many provinces in Luzon are likely to experience dry spells, Mindanao will experience dry conditions, while Camarines Norte and Southern Leyte provinces will be vulnerable to drought.

“We have been warned. El Niño is here and we must prepare for more extreme heat in the coming months. An El Niño episode typically lasts for 9 to 12 months,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement.

“We want to know NIA’s concrete plans on how to help farmers cope with El Niño and how to ensure the availability of rice and food crops despite extreme weather events,” Ramos said.

KMP proposed to NIA to immediately implement plans for effective use and management of water resources, restoration of irrigation systems and construction of climate-resilient irrigation systems and facilities.

“Kayang mapababa ng mula 20 hanggang 30 porsyento ang paggamit ng tubig sa mga sakahan ng palay basta epektibo at mahusay ang pag-manage ng NIA ng tubig. Hindi kailangang alisan o bawasan ng tubig para sa irigasyon ng mga magsasaka natin sa Pampanga at Bulacan,” KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano said.

(Water consumption for farmlands can be reduced by 20% to 30% if NIA will effectively and properly manage water supply. Water requirements for irrigation for Pampanga and Bulacan’s farmers should not be not be stopped nor reduced).

KMP asked the government to bare complete details and information of its plans to solve the irrigation water shortage because of El Niño. It will seek an urgent dialogue with DA and NIA officials to discuss mitigation efforts.

The National Water Resources Board has started reduction of water supply for irrigation and domestic use purposes from Norzagaray, Bulacan’s Angat Dam since last month.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Hydromet Division reported the water level at Angat Dam has already dropped below its normal operating level of 180 meters to 179.23 meters.

Angat Dam irrigates around 85,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon and is the main supplier of water to Metro Manila.

Domestic use over irrigation

Meanwhile, an official of the National economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has assured the Filipino people that President Marcos is already taking measures to lessen the possible negative impacts of El Niño in the country.

NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said that the worst effects of El Niño will be felt early next year.

Edillon also cited that irrigation water should be reduced in favor of residential use to help ease the effects of the phenomenon among Metro Manila residents.

The official said the rice planting season is over anyway.

PAGASA has officially declared on July 4 the start of El Niño in the country and has also predicted an 80% probability that the country will be under the weather phenomenon until the first quarter of 2024.

The country will possibly experience below normal rainfall conditions and temperature spikes, PAGASA said. #

Squash prices drop to P3/kilo; KMP urges gov’t assistance to farmers

Farm gate prices of squash have dropped to P3 a kilo in Cotabato ang General Santos cities and a peasants’ group have urged the government to buy them to help farmers.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said tons of squash are being dumped or are being fed to farm animals because of extremely low buying prices.

“The cause of this problem is the lack of marketing and support by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the government for farmers. It is only the private traders who are buying the farmers’ produce,” the KMP said in a statement Thursday, June 8.

The KMP said that if the DA can create the Kadiwa fuel subsidy program for onions, it can also subsidize the procurement of squash from the farmers.

The group added that local government units, the Department of Education and the DA may devise a squash feeding program in public schools.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry may process squash into instant noodles, snacks and others, the KMP said.

Quoting a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the DOST, KMP said squash is rich with beta carotene and vitamins that are important to children’s nutrition.

“All Filipinos eat squash. There should be no oversupply if only the DA has a marketing assistance plan of our farmers,” KMP chairperson and rice and vegetable farmer Rafael Mariano said.

Mariano said the DA should not blame the farmers who planted squash but the exploitative traders.

“The farm gate price used to be P25 a kilo but it has since droped to P12 and now to P3. The farmers spend almost P50,000 per hectare for squash production per planting season,” Mariano explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers back salt industry development bill, ask similar support for other rural industries

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said it supports the Salt Industry Development Bill (House Bill 8278) that the House of Representatives passed on its third and final reading last Monday.

The KMP said it once the measure becomes law, it may solve the country’s dependence on imported salt that currently stands at 90% of domestic requirements.

“As an archipelagic country with a long stretch of shoreline, it is ironic that we are a net importer of salt, with 90% of our salt consumption imported from Australia, China, New Zealand, and Thailand,” the KMP said.

“This measure, if enacted and enforced conscientiously, will help revive the dying domestic salt industry, and can give employment to the rural population, especially fisher-folk,” the group added.

The bill seeks to revitalize the salt industry, attain increased income for salt farmers and salt producers, achieve salt self-sufficiency, and become a net exporter of salt.

The said bill also aims to promote and support artisanal salt farming, as well as available non-traditional alternative methods and techniques of salt farming that allow year-round production of salt even under erratic weather patterns.

Agri Party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee, one of the principal authors of the House bill, told CNN Philippines House Bill 8278’ passage has the potential to create 3,000 to 5,000 jobs in the country’s rural and agricultural communities.

“By putting focus on the industry, we can generate thousands of jobs and lessen the burden of salt farmers, salt producers, and their families. This will also contribute to the country’s economy,” Lee said in Filipino.

The KMP said Bulacan province used to be a major salt-producing province, supplying 45% of the country’s salt requirements. However, the conversion of coastal areas and urban development in the province decimated its local salt industry, forcing traditional salt makers out of business.

“Worsening climate change has also affected local salt production as traditional salt producers use solar evaporation to extract salt in coastal areas. Likewise, the Philippines’ entry into the GATT-WTO Agreement on Agriculture in 1995, allowed the influx of cheap salt imports,” the KMP said. 

Aside from the salt industry, the group said other rural industries must receive similar support for genuine agricultural development.

“[C]oconut,  sugar, meat processing, dairy products, leather processing, abaca products, clothing and textiles, furniture, bamboo and rattan, fish processing, fruit, spices, and vegetable processing; agricultural by-products processing and seaweeds processing must also undergo genuine development to meet the needs of the people, local industries and the domestic economy as a whole,” the group said.

“The development of major rural industries will provide social capital towards planned and sustained rural development,” according to KMP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Featured photo: The Dasol Salt Farms in Pangasinan province is among the last thriving such operations in the Philippines. (Photo from the Pangasinan Provincial Tourism and Cultural Office:]

Land Use Bill to worsen hunger, activists say

Activist groups are protesting a priority bill in Congress proposing a new national land use plan they say would further reduce agricultural lands and endanger food self sufficiency in the Philippines.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kalikasan and other groups held a protest rally last Monday, May 22, ahead of the bill’s third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said that House Bill 8162, also called the National Land Use Bill, is part of the Marcos government’s pro-business and pro-foreign legislative measures.

“To quote primary sponsor Siargao Rep. Bingo Matugas: ‘This bill being passed into law will be a sure-fire game-changer in terms of foreign investment for the Philippines,’” Ramos said.

“So, again we ask Congress — for whose interest will the National Land Use Bill serve? Ang paggamit dapat ng mga kalupaan at natural resources ng bansa ay para sa mga Pilipino at tunay na pag-unlad ng bayan,” Ramos added.

KMP revealed that the bill aims to amend the classification of land used for food production from “agricultural” to “production development” that would include properties earmarked as industrial and tourism.

“Maaaring pahintulutan nito ang pagtatayo ng commercial establishments sa mga sakahan dahil pareho na itong saklaw ng lupang pamproduksyon. Sa kongkreto, nangangahulugan ito ng pagpapalayas sa mga magsasaka at pagwasak sa mga sakahan,” Ramos explained.

Activists protesting the National Land Use Bill at the House of Representatives. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

KMP said that between 1990 and 2000, agricultural land has already decreased by a total of 94,000 hectares. Meanwhile, built-up areas such as urban, residential, commercial properties have undergone the fastest average annual expansion, increasing by over 37,000 hectares during the same period.

The group also cited Census of Agriculture and Fisheries data, revealing farm areas decreased by 2.67 million hectares from 1991 to 2012.

Ramos said the bill would result in smaller agricultural production, worsening hunger and further reliance on foreign investments if passed into law. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers protest sugar mill closure, abrupt loss of livelihood

Planters bring rotting sugarcane to posh Bonifacio Global City to dramatize plight

Farmers’ groups asked the authorities to take over operations of a Batangas sugar mill they say closed down due to the government non-stop importation policies as well as failure to stop smuggling of agricultural products into the country.

Representatives of more than 12,000 sugar farm workers of the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) in Nasugbu, Batangas protested in front of mill operator Roxas Holdings, Inc. (RHI) in Taguig City on Friday, March 17, demanding immediate aid for their abrupt loss of livelihood since December of last year.

Dumping dried up and rotting sugarcane shoots in front of RHI’s headquarters to show the status of their un-harvested and un-milled crop, the protesters also pressed the government to re-open the mill instead of relying on sugar imports.

They were joined by members of the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).

CADPI, one of the oldest and biggest raw sugar producers in Luzon, filed for permanent closure last December 15 after “experiencing operational and financial challenges affecting the sugar industry in the Batangas area.”

The closure affects 10,980 hectares of sugarcane areas and has so far left 4,584 sugarcane planters bankrupt.

UMA spokesperson and NFSW secretary general John Milton Lozande said CADPI’s abrupt closure ignores its existing milling contracts with small planters as well as its service agreements with several hauling partners.

“Sugar farm workers who cut and load sugarcane from the fields to the milling facilities have been jobless since December. The RHI Agri-Business Development Corporation (RADC) also entered into crop loan and contract growing agreements with various sugar planters who are not yet paid due to the mill closure,” Lozande said.

Dried and rotting sugar cane the farmers brought to a posh corporate headquarters to dramatize their sudden loss of livelihood. (KMP-supplied photo)

Lozande also revealed that the farmers held a dialogue with Department of Agriculture (DA) undersecretary Domingo Panganiban last February 15 who promised to have their crops milled at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).

Lozande said that both the DA and the Batangas provincial government agreed to fund the cost of transporting 60 to 70 truckloads of sugarcane to CAT, but remains unfulfilled until the planters’ crops have gone way past their regular harvesting period.

The affected farm workers and planters are demanding that the promised fund be used for compensation for their losses instead.

Aside from the uncontrolled smuggling of sugar into the country, KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos blamed the situation to the government’s “non-stop importation” policy, with the latest Sugar Order instructing the importation of some 440,000 metric tons of sugar.

“The government should support local sugar farmers and planters instead of relying on sugar imports,” Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers angry over dismissal of coco levy graft charge vs. ‘plunderers’

While chief presidential counsel Juan Ponce Enrile rejoiced, farmers fumed at the Supreme Court (SC) decision dismissing the P840.7 million graft case against those accused of misusing the controversial Coconut Industry Development Fund (CIDF, the coco levy fund).

Reacting to the high court’s decision, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the dismissal of the charges against Enrile and others accused is a great disservice and direct affront to small coconut farmers and their heirs

Sana naisip din ng Korte Suprema ang kapakanan at kinabukasan ng mga magniniyog at ng kanilang mga tagapagmana na lampas limang dekada nang naghihintay na maibalik sa kanila at mapakinabangan man lang nila ang pondo ng coco levy. Naghihintay pa rin ang mga magniniyog na maibalik sa kanila ang coco levy,” the KMP said.

(The SC should have thought about the welfare and future of the coconut farmers and their heirs who have waited for more than five decades for their monies to be given back to them.)

In finally issuing a decision on the 33-year old case, the SC ordered the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges against Enrile as there had been a clear violation of his right to speedy disposition of cases.

Other respondents in the graft case were Jose C. Concepcion, Rolando Dela Cuesta, Narciso M. Pineda, and Danilo S. Ursua.

The same ruling also ordered the dismissal of the graft case against Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., Jose Eleazar Jr., Maria Clara Lobregat, and Augusto Orosa “due to their supervening deaths.”

In an interview by GMA Integrated News, Enrile thanked the high court for its decision, saying there had been no hearings conducted.

“It was not a case of speedy trial; it was already a case of no trial,” he said in Filipino.

Enrile also justified their use of billions of pesos from the coco levy fund, explaining the money funded the establishment of the United Coconut Planters Fund, bought San Miguel Corporation shares, bought coconut oil mills as spent on interventions to solve the scarcity of coconut oil products during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. presidency.

The KMP however said that all Enrile and his co-accused did was extort the fund from small coconut farmers and plundered for their personal interests.

“[The] coco levy fund scam will be forever regarded as the scam of the century perpetrated by the Marcoses and their cronies,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ group added that the dismissal of graft charges against Enrile and others have victimized the farmers all over again.

“Who will afford them (small coconut farmers) the same consideration that the SC granted Enrile et. al. All administrations post-Marcos Sr. failed to return the coco levy fund to its rightful owners — the coconut farmers and their heirs,” KMP said.

The coco levy fund was sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government under the Corazon Aquino government that filed the graft charges against Enrile and others in February 1990.

The fund has since grown and is estimated to be worth P75 billion pesos. The Rodrigo Duterte administration however transformed the fund into a privatized investment account that the KMP said poor coconut farmers cannot control, manage, nor take benefit from. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers reiterate call for VAT removal on oil products

‘Mabuti pa ang mga turista’–KMP

On the eve of another round of increases in prices of petroleum products, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reiterated its demand for the removal of value added taxes (VAT) on diesel, gasoline, kerosene and cooking gas.

Reacting to the government’s announcement that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved VAT reimbursements to foreign tourists, the farmer’s group said the government should first provide relief to low-income families.

“Unahin muna dapat ng gobyerno na tugunan ang panawagan ng publiko na alisin na ang VAT sa langis para bumaba ang presyo ng mga produktong petrolyo. Pero ang ginawang prayoridad ng Pangulo ay bigyan ng VAT refund ang mga turistang papasok sa bansa,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

(The government should first approve demands to remove the VAT on oil in order for prices to go down on petroleum products. But the president instead prioritized VAT refunds for foreign tourists.)

Based on the Department of Energy’s price monitoring, the net increase so far this year is ₱5.90 per liter for gasoline, ₱2.05/L for diesel, and ₱3.20/L for kerosene.

Estimates show that gasoline prices will increase tomorrow by ₱1.30/L, Diesel by ₱1.00/L, and Kerosene by ₱1.35/L.

A big-time price increase on LPG is also expected starting in February or as much as ₱9.50 per kilogram or ₱104.50 per LPG cylinder, the KMP revealed.

KMP’s Ramos added that government’s VAT Refund Program for foreign tourists is part of Quick Wins recommendations from the Private Sector Advisory Council that were approved by Marcos Jr.

“This shows the President’s unending favor to private companies and the private sector over public interest,” Ramos added.

Poor Filipinos first

KMP said scrapping the oil excise taxes under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law will provide immediate relief to Filipinos and help control the rising inflation.

Removing the excise tax and VAT on oil will remove P6 per liter from diesel, P5.35 per liter for unleaded gasoline, and P3 per kilogram of LPG, the group said.

Oil revenue losses can be offset by also suspending the corporate income tax cuts under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Law.

“Reducing indirect consumption taxes such as on oil and increasing direct taxes on income makes the tax system more progressive,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ group said Filipinos are still reeling from the damaging effects of frequent oil price hikes in 2022.

Oil prices hiked for 11 consecutive weeks in January to March of last year.

The net year-to-date price increase in 2022 was at ₱14.90/L for gasoline, ₱27.30/L for diesel, and ₱21.30/L for kerosene. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers to Marcos: Talk to China about veggie smuggling

Farmers have asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to call the attention of the Chinese government to the rampant smuggling of agricultural products to the Philippines.

As Marcos starts his state visit to China today, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the concurrent agriculture secretary must discuss with Chinese authorities the illicit trade of agricultural products the group says contributes to the uncontrolled rise in prices of some vegetables in the local market.

“Despite China being the Philippines’ top trade partner in 2021, with total trade valued at $38.35 billion, there is still an unimaginable extent of illicit trade. Smuggled onions from China have pushed up onion retail prices to as much as P700 per kilo in local markets. This is very alarming,” the KMP in a statement said.

KMP said Marcos should ask Chinese law enforcement to curb smuggling activities and crimes at their Customs control areas especially Hong Kong.

“We know that China customs carry out heavy-handed policies against smuggling. They should do their very best in apprehending big-time Chinese smuggling syndicates who are in cahoots with local smugglers,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said.

Ramos added that majority of frozen and fresh vegetables intercepted by the Philippine Bureau of Customs in the past year were from Hong Kong and China.

“The Philippine government is losing billions worth of revenues as a result of these smuggling activities,” Ramos said.

Transparency in trade

The KMP said Marcos must also reveal if he wishes to continue with the China-Philippines agricultural cooperation signed by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2016.

The said agricultural trade agreement led to China becoming the Philippines’ third-largest export destination of agricultural products and its second-largest import source of Philippine farm products, the group revealed.

The agreement negatively affected local food self sufficiency as it heightened the country’s exportation of agricultural products, KMP’s Rafael Mariano said.

KMP said the since the trade agreement has been signed, the Philippines started exporting fresh coconuts and avocados to China while securing more than half of the market share of bananas in Chinese markets.

Chinese investments in agriculture also grew exponentially over the years as China also supported irrigation and agricultural technology projects, particularly the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology that cultivates China-origin commercial hybrid rice.

“Dapat palakasin ang local na produksyon ng pagkain at agricultural products para sa mga Pilipino mismo. Lalabas, mas malaki pa ang pakinabang ng China sa ating agrikultura kaysa sa mga Pilipino,” Mariano said.

(Local food and agriculture production must be strengthened for Filipinos. As it is, China benefits more from our agriculture than Filipinos.)

Marcos Jr. is expected to sign at least 10 bilateral agreements with China during the state visit, including agreements on trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, development cooperation, people-to-people ties, and maritime security. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers question budget cuts on irrigation and rice program equipment

Marcos bailiwicks to get more road projects in 2023, KMP reveals

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) questioned proposed fund cuts for irrigation and equipment procurement for the country’s national rice program in next year’s proposed national budget.

The farmers’ group reported that the Department of Agriculture proposes a P211 million cut in the budget for the Irrigation Network Service from the current P932 million to P721 million in 2023.

The KMP added that the agency, led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, proposes a 64% budget slash from the current P1.9 billion to P700 million for the Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities of the ongoing National Rice Program.

Likewise, the Extension Support, Education, and Training Services budget for the National Livestock Program will be slashed by P82 million from P611 million to P529 million, the KMP said.

“These are crucial projects, activities, and programs related to the recovery of the slumped rice and livestock sectors. Why impose these budget cuts?” former agrarian reform secretary and KMP’s long-time leader Rafael Mariano asked.

Agri budget for counter-insurgency

In a statement, Mariano also said that the agency must explain why the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seem to prioritize programs that are being used for the government’s counter-insurgency project.

Among these include the budget for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program proposed to enjoy a P251 million budget increase from P923 million to P1.1 billion next year.

SAAD, however, is not a generic DA project but was created by former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“Technically, this budget for SAAD is a budget for counterinsurgency under the guise of social and economic interventions such as social preparation, production and livelihood, marketing assistance and enterprise development. We want to know, how in reality, SAAD aids in poverty alleviation of farmers and fishers when the most basic issues in rural communities are not being addressed,” Mariano said.

More agri budget for Marcos’ home regions

KMP also noted that the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seems to favor Marcos’ home regions, Ilocos and Eastern Visayas. The president’s father, Ferdinand Sr. was from Ilocos Norte while his mother is from Leyte.

“[The KMP finds] it dubious that the DA gave funding preference for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads (FMR) in key production areas in known ‘Marcos territories’ like in Regions 1 and 8,” the group said.

From P7.5 billion, the farm-to-market roads budget will increase to P13.1 billion, of which some P1.86 billion will go to Region 1 and P1.41 billion for Region 8, the group reported.

KMP said it identified more than 100 FMR projects in Ilocos Norte and Leyte provinces alone, mostly concreting of barangay roads. Each FMR project ranges from P12 million to P30 million.

KMP added that farm-to-market road projects easily become budget for “farm-to-pockets” operations.

“Sana, hindi tatambakan lang ng graba (gravel) ang isang kilometro ng kalsada tapos tatawagin nang farm-to-market road. Kailangan busisiin ang mga badyet para sa farm-to-market roads dahil dito laging may mga kumukubra,” Mariano said.

(We wish they will not just dump gravel on short stretches and already call them farm-to-market roads. There is a need to investigate the budget because corruption is rife in such projects.)

“Huge amounts are spent on roads that are repaired or rebuilt over and over, resulting in favored contractors and duplication of projects. Corruption is also a given in these projects,” the farmer-leader added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers groups, lawyers laud dismissal of 2 charges against ‘Tinang 83’

The Capas Municipal Trial Court has dismissed the illegal assembly and malicious mischief charges against the Tinang 83, a decision immediately lauded by farmers groups and their lawyers.

In a decision released Monday, June 27, Presiding Judge Antonio M. Pangan said the prosecution failed to allege essential facts to the charges of illegal assembly and malicious mischief against the farmers and their supporters.

The judge added that the court has no jurisdiction over the case as it involves an agrarian dispute and should be referred to the Tarlac Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office for proper action.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) welcomed the dismissal of the first two of seven charges against those mass-arrested in Concepcion town on June 9.

“We laud the Court for recognizing the utter baseless-ness of the charges against the farmer-beneficiaries and their supporters. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from everyone especially the lawyers and paralegals who worked tirelessly for this victory,” the KMP said.

Dispositive portion of Capas MTC’s dismissal of the first 2 complaints against the Tinang 83. (Photo by Atty. Jo Clemente)

The farmers’ lawyers belonging to the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) also hailed the dismissal, saying they are glad that the Court acted objectively and speedily.

“As we have said from the start, there is no factual and legal basis for the charges,” SENTRA said.

“We laud the courage and independence of Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge Pangan. His swift action saved not just the accused but also the Filipino People from the expenses and rigours of a long-drawn but useless trial,” the lawyers added.

The farmers and their supporters are facing five other charges before several Courts in Tarlac.

The dismissal of the charges is the second successive victory for the farmers after the DAR in Tarlac has recognized them as genuine land reform beneficiaries over the disputed property last June 20.

READ: DAR list affirms Tinang farmers are the real land owners—KMP


The lawyers said their clients plan on filing countersuits in behalf of their clients.

“[T]he anxiety and trauma that the illegal arrest and the filing of cases against the 83, who are mostly students and artists, should not be left unchecked and unpunished. Thus, the 83 will file counter-charges against the police, the officers of the Cooperative, and possibly against the inquest prosecutor who filed the cases against them,” SENTRA revealed.

The group also said the farmer’s cooperative claiming ownership of the disputed farmland should also be made liable for its use of the land for almost 26 years without paying a single centavo to the real beneficiaries.

The KMP said it remains vigilant as the quest for justice for the beneficiaries goes on.

“[T]he unlawful conduct of state agents led by OIC PNP Reynold Concepcion Chief Macabitas and Acting Provincial Prosecutor Mae Montefalco must not be left without consequences,” it said.

Members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers are also providing free legal assistance to the farmers and their supporters.

Time for the farmers to own the land

Both SENTRA and the KMP called on the DAR to finally resolve the land dispute, saying the real beneficiaries still do not have full control and access over their land.

“We call on the DAR to immediately install the farmers since there is no longer any reason not to. The farmers should enjoy the land and the harvests thereon being the legitimate owners.” SENTRA said.

“[W]e invoke the authority of the DAR to investigate the acts of incoming municipal mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac Noel Villanueva who from the very start favored the side of the complainants, and took an active role in the prosecution of this malicious and baseless case against the legitimate farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Tinang,” it added

“[T]he struggle of the Tinang farmers continues as their formal installation as beneficiaries remain undone. The threat of additional schemes also remain as (Tarlac Representative and incoming Conception mayor) Noel Villanueva and his minions desperately cling onto the Tinang farmers’ land,” the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)