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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)

6 farmers arrested in Bulacan

Six of the 14 Norzagaray, Bulacan farmers charged with theft for harvesting their own crops have been arrested by the police Monday night, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

In an alert, the farmers’ group said Salvacion Abonilla, John Jason Abonilla, Jenny Capa, Marilyn Olpos, Catherine Magdato, and Eden Gualberto were taken to the police station in Norzagaray at past seven o’clock in the evening last January 18.

All are members of the Samahang Magsasaka ng San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) and are residents of Sitio Compra, Barangay San Mateo.

The farmers were charged with theft after Royal Mollucan Realty Holdings Inc. (RMRHI) guards alleged they chanced on the six and eight others harvesting coconuts and bananas inside a 75.5-hectare disputed property.

The farmers said it could not have been theft if they were harvesting the crops they themselves planted on a property that their elders have tilled when the area was still wilderness.

The KMP denounced the arrests as harassment of the farmers who have a more legitimate claim to the land than the realty company.

It also denounced the Philippine National Police for “abetting a landgrabber” and for violating a court of Appeals decision ordering the Office of the President to award the land to agrarian reform program beneficiaries.

The disputed property had been placed in a Notice of Coverage as well as Compulsory Acquisition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

“Since the 1950s, peasant families lived and tilled the agricultural lands located in Sitio Compra, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan. Around 50 families cultivate the 75-hectare land planted with rice, corn, varieties of vegetables, and other crops,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ ancestors were tenants who paid land rent to the family of former landowner Roman Aquino, the group added.

The KMP revealed that the arrested women farmers were forced to leave their young children unattended at their homes as their husbands are all away for work.

The group also recalled that in February and October 2019, Royal Mollucan demolished a total of 38 houses within the farmers’ community, forcing farmers to leave their farms and look for livelihood outside the fenced agricultural land.

The KMP said the arrested farmers have no money to pay for bail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bulacan LGU destroys crops and trees

A local government unit destroyed a 2.7-hectare farmland planted with vegetables and mature fruit-bearing trees last January 16 in Bulacan province, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported.

Hundreds of crop-bearing trees were destroyed and flattened by members of the San Jose Del Monte City Public Order and Safety Office (SJDM-POSO) last Saturday, reportedly upon the instructions of a relative of Mayor Arthur Robes.  

The relative was identified as a certain Obet Robes.

The farmland tilled by the Ajose family in Sitio Dalandanan, Barangay Tungkong Mangga in the said city was bulldozed, destroying crops including banana trees, pineapples, root crops, and eggplants, the KMP said.

According to the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Dalandanan (SAMAGDA), a local affiliate of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan-KMP, the SJDM City Hall POSO employees went to the farmland presenting a canceled Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and insisted that the farmers vacate the land.

SJDM City Hall POSO employees at the Ajose home asking the family to vacate the land. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The Ajose family said the POSO employees did not present a writ of execution or a court order for the bulldozing of their farmland, the farmers’ group said.

The destruction of the crops was said to be permitted by Mayor Arthur Robes, invoking his rights as the Mayor based on RA 8797 that converted SJDM as a component city, the group added.

Jhulian Ajose, whose parents started tilling the parcel of land in the 1990s, lamented the destruction of their crops.

“Bakit niyo kami pinaalis sa tinataniman naming lupa? Dito lang kami kumukuha ng kinabubuhay at pagkain namin, ng pang-paaral. Sa lupa na ito, dito kami umaasa. Ektaryang pananim ang sinira nyo!,” Ajose said. (Why are you driving us away from the land we are tilling. This is our source of livelihood, food and education expenses. We rely on this land. You have destroyed hectares of crops!)

“Hindi ninyo alam kung gaano ang hirap ng mga magulang namin. Sa bawat pagpapagal, sa bawat patak ng dugo at pawis, sa bawat sugat na tinatamo sa pagbubungkal at pagtatanim sa lupa na ito. Wala kayong awa sa mga katulad namin,” he added. (You have no idea of the hardships our parents have undergone, their efforts, their every drop of blood and sweat, their every injury for tilling this land. You have no pity for the likes of us.)

A San Jose del Monte City backhoe destroying banana crops at the Ajose farm. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The KMP said that the farmers of Barangay Tungkong Mangga, one of the few remaining agricultural villages in SJDM, had been suffering development aggression and intensifised landgrabbing since the MRT-7 depot and train station projects started.

“Land grabbing and land-use conversion are prevalent in SJDM, among the prime targets of land developers and real estate corporations such as the Villar family-owned Vista Land and Landscapes Inc. The city is being developed by the local government as a ‘New Super City’ and Metro Manila’s gateway to Central Luzon,” the KMP said.

More than a thousand farming families are threatened once the MRT-7 project is completed, wiping out 588 hectares of agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Landgrabber’ harasses 14 Bulacan farmers with theft charges–KMP

Fourteen farmers harvesting coconut and banana crops were charged with theft by a private company in Norzagaray, Bulacan, a farmers’ group reported.

In an urgent alert, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the “landgrabbing” Royal Mollucan Realty Holding Inc. (RMHI) continues its harassment of members of the Samahang Magsasaka sa San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) and charged the farmers with theft for harvesting their own crops.

RMHI alleged its guards chanced upon the farmers taking coconuts and bananas inside the 75.5-hectare disputed property at Sitio Comra, Barangay San Mateo.

The Office of the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor recommended a PhP6,000 bail for each of the farmers.

The KMP however said the property the company claims it owns had been placed under a Notice of Coverage under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

RMHI has failed in its legal manoeuvres to have the property exempted from CARP, the KMP added.

The group added that the Court of Appeals has ruled with finality that the land should already be awarded to the members of SAMA-SAMA in accordance with an order from the Office of the President.

“But the Norzagaray Municipal Agrarian Reform Office and the Bulacan Provincial Agrarian Reform Office have been foot-dragging,” KMP said.

Armed personnel of Royal Mollucan Realty Holdings Inc.. (KMP photo)

In its desperation, RMHI had been violent to the farmer-beneficiaries, demolishing their houses, destroying their crops, burned farming equipment, fenced-off agricultural plots and drove away farmers, KMP revealed.

The farmer-beneficiaries have been tilling the property for three decades already, the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP, PNP raid Cagayan peasant leaders’ house

The military and police raided the house of Anakpawis regional coordinator and Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan) chairperson Isabelo Adviento midnight of Wednesday, December 2, but failed to find the peasant leader, a Cagayan Valley support group reported.

About 100 soldiers swooped down on Adviento’s house at Barangay Carupian, Baggao, Cagayan and, at about 3:30 AM, forced their way in to search for him, the group Taripnong Cagayan Valley said.

The group did not identify the soldiers’ unit.

Adviento, however, was not home as he was leading relief operations elsewhere to help victims of the massive floods that hit the region the past weeks, Taripnong added.

Frustrated at missing their target, the government troops tried to intimidate the household by placing a grenade and a loaded gun underneath a chair at the house’s living area.

The soldiers also accosted and handcuffed Adviento’s neighbor and Baggao Farmers’ Association (BFA) member Richard Dagohoy, Taripnong added.

The group said the local police arrived after two hours with a warrant and proceeded to search the entire house.

The police warned the people in the house, including Adviento’s mother, that the next to be raided are the houses of BFA members Ranchi Billones and Ronald Reyes.

“Here I am helping to bring relief to flood victims daily and they planted evidence so they can arrest me,” Adviento said in this post on his Facebook page hours after the raid on his house.

“While Adviento’s group is busy raising and distributing relief goods in the entire region, the soldiers and the police chose to threaten them,” Taripnong said.

“Taripnong Cagayan Valley condemns the grave intimidation the farmer-leaders and activists suffer from the government,” it added.

Adviento, a long-time peasant leader, is a repeated victim of red-tagging, harassment and surveillance by armed state forces.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also condemned the raid, saying the “fascist act” is the “height of inhumanity” occurring amid a health crisis and right after a disaster in the region.

“We condemn the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) who has wasted public funds and resources, much needed by disaster-stricken Filipinos, into terrorizing the rural poor,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More rights violations with Sinas as top cop, groups warn

A farmers’ group and a human rights organization warned that more rights abuses will follow National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) commander Major General Debold Sinas’s appointment as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Following the announcement by Malacanan Palace that the controversial officer is the country’s next top cop, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Sinas’ record is enough proof that the police would be further tainted with more human rights violations once he assumes command.

The group said Sinas is accountable for Oplan Sauron in Negros it blames for the deaths,   arrests, and detention of farmers and activists during his stint as Central Visayas Regional Police Office chief.

“Sinas is also behind the arrests of Manila-based activists including Reina Mae Nasino. Sinas is also on the hook for the still unresolved brutal killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis last August 10,” the KMP said in a statement.

Sinas, described by the KMP as an “attack dog” of President Rodrigo Duterte, will replace outgoing PNP Chief Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

The police general also courted widespread condemnation by celebrating his birthday last March with a party at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite a government-imposed ban on gatherings.

The KMP said that with Sinas at the PNP’s helm the public must expect for the worst from the police and remain vigilant at all times.

“The PNP only serves at the pleasure of the President who terrorizes the people on a daily basis,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said it is not surprised at Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief as Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators with rank promotions.

Karapatan warned that with Sinas’s appointment, ”a bloody party of human rights violations” is sure to follow.

“Duterte’s most rabid and murderous lapdogs are given freer rein to merrily kill, kill, and kill with wanton impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said it fears Sinas will continue the Duterte government’s “sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists.”

The group recalled that the Commission on Human Rights reported the increase of drug-related killings in Central Visayas from July 2018 to October 2019 when he was police chief in the region.

“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted,” Karapatan said.

“[T]his fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Day of Defiance’ ng magsasaka sa Mendiola, naningil kay Duterte

Pinangunahan ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas ang unang kilos protesta sa Mendiola simula ng pandemyang coronavirus bilang ‘Day of defiance’ sa Buwan ng Magsasaka noong Oktubre 21, 2020.

Isang ‘Hukumang Magbubukid’ ang kanilang isinagawa kung saan hinatulan nilang “guilty” si Duterte dahil sa anila’y kriminal na kapabayaan at pasismo. Kinondena nila ang Rice Tarrification Law at pagpaslang sa halos 300 mga magsasaka sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Groups hold protest to cry for justice for slain peasant leader

Peasant groups hold a protest today, August 14, in front of Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City to cry for justice for one of their leaders, Randall “Randy” Echanis.

Echanis was brutally killed in his rented house last August 10. Aside from being a peasant leader, he was also a peace consultant and known member of National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

Pinilit Kang Binunot Ngunit Hindi Nagtagumpay

(Alay kay Randall “ Ka Randy” Echanis)

by Prestoline Suyat

Pusikit pa ang gabi

nang pilit kang binunot

binistay ng mga bala

pinagsasaksak

hanggang malagutan nang hininga.

Pinilit kang inilayo

itinangging ikaw ang bangkay

na dinuhagi ng mga demonyo.

Ngunit paanong hindi makikilala

ang mabuting binhi

ang sibol na pinagyaman

ng mapagpalang mga kamay

ng mga mangunguma;

ang bigas na pinalusog

ng maraming taon ng paglilingkod at pakikibaka?

Pinilit kang binunot

ngunit tulad ng iba

ginintuan ka ng palay

sa matabang lupa

ng paglaban ng masa.

Nag-akala sila

ngunit nalinlang.

Paano ka mabubunot sa amin?

Hindi ang lagablab ng digmaan,

Hindi ang kadiliman ng bartolina,

Hindi ng mga dagok at hambalos ng pang-aapi,

Hindi ng mga unos ng pagmamalupit,

Hindi ng brutalidad ng pagpaslang.

Ikaw din na di na lang binhi

kundi nagpataba ng lupa

ng rebolusyong inangkin mo

at inalay sa bayan.

REVOLUTION

(For Randall Echanis)

by Lou Gartha Kho-Mawis

After that slow fear

crawling over our spirits

The rage takes over

Quick

Shooting like lightning

Charring the apathy of day

The helplessness of night

Then elightenment

We wriggle

Free from our chains

On tiptoe

we reach for the dreams

We thought were behind us

The gap that we must bridge

is worth our final breath

Our dreams conceive

a world without borders

Hands without chains

In the darkness

we have already died

Struggle is

Our resurrection