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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

Countersuits

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)

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

The mass-arrested farmers at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac on June 9 are the rightful owners of the property after all, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) announced.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has reaffirmed that all 94 members of local peasant group Makisama-Tinang are among the 178 beneficiaries of its revalidated list released on Monday, June 20, the KMP said in an announcement.

The announcement included photos of DAR banners announcing an “Initial List of Qualified Beneficiaries” the KMP said were displayed at Concepcion Municipal Hall, Tinang Barangay Hall and at the hut at the contested 200 hectare property.

“[The list] bolsters the rightful claim of the Tinang farmers to the plot they cultivated with supporters last June 9, cementing the utter baseless-ness of the charges filed against them,” the KMP said.

“At the same time, it further cripples the wobbly claims by land grabber and incoming Mayor Noel Villanueva, his puppet cooperative, and the police, of any offense from the part of the Tinang farmers and their supporters,” the group added.

The KMP said that the DAR’s announcement of its long-awaited list will pave the way for the Tinang farmer-beneficiaries installation “at the soonest possible time.”

The group however warned that Villanueva, incumbent Representative and incoming Concepcion mayor, is expected to continue opposing the move.

DAR employees displaying “Initial List of Qualified Beneficiaries” at Tinang Barangay Hall (top photo) and at the contested property (above). [KMP photo]

“(L)and grabber Noel Villanueva is expected to try and continue to deprive the Tinang farmers of their land, as their clan has done for decades. For this, we encourage everyone to stay vigilant,” the KMP said.

Many Makisama-Tinang members were violently arrested with their supporters last June 9 while having lunch and were charged with illegal assembly and malicious mischief by the Concepcion police.

The farmers said the police acted upon orders of Villanueva who they blame for their four-day ordeal that drew widespread condemnation nationwide.

At their arraignment last June 19 at the Capas Municipal Trial Court in connection with their mass arrest, the farmers and their supporters were informed that the additional charges of Disobedience, Obstruction of Justice and Usurpation of Real Rights were filed against them by the police.

They will be arraigned on the additional charges at the Tarlac Regional Trial Court on June 28. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Scenes at a police parking lot

CONCEPCION, Tarlac–It wasn’t midmorning yet but the heat is already unbearable. Crammed under two tents are more than 80 farmers and land rights advocates arrested on Wednesday afternoon by the police for trying to till a portion of a farm lot they say has already been awarded to them as early as 1995 under the government’s land reform program.

The detainees, dubbed the Tinang 83, were trying to till a portion of the hacienda with the same name as the community where it is located. They were taking a lunch break when the police arrived in droves in several vehicles, intent on arresting them.

“They were in no mood to negotiate. They surrounded our hut and started arresting as many as they could lay their hands on,” peasant rights activist and poet Pia Montalban said.

The detainees were given not given enough chairs at the parking lot where they were taken by those who arrested them. What paper cartons they have been using as bedding the past two nights are what they sit on. Paper plates they use to eat with are what they frantically fan themselves with, an arduous task under such wilting heat.

‘Tinang 83’ detainees under tents at a police parking lot. (Photo by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao Productions)

The lone paralegal with them is busy, asking everyone how they are doing while constantly relaying the infuriating information to lawyers on standby that Concepcion acting police chief Lt.Col. Ronald Macabitas has not shown up yet. Their release papers lay unattended at the police officer’s desk inside an air-conditioned office.

Meanwhile, detainees with health conditions are being looked after by their fellows more attentively. One with asthma keeps pumping her inhaler, obvious it is about to run out.

Still, they are in a good mood, the student activists more so. Yesterday, one of them scheduled to attend her college graduation rites, Denise Macalino of Holy Angel University in Angeles City, wore the toga she had in her bag when arrested. She probably had the most number of well-wishers in her entire graduating batch, albeit attending the rites remotely and as a police detainee at a parking lot.

Denise Macalino wearing her toga at the police station as her unjust arrest withheld her supposed attendance to the graduation rites. (Photo from Denise Macalino’s Facebook Account)

The activists had another happy moment this morning. A fellow activist slipped in notes for them through the fence, drawings by children in communities they are organizing, wishing them well. Tears of joy flowed.

Detained student activists receiving notes by children from the communities they are organizing. (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao Productions)

Concepcion’s food delivery businesses appear busier the past two days, thanks to the support the detainees are receiving even from strangers. Food keep on arriving even if instructions on the delivery receipts are somewhat unusual.

A food receipt with a note to the delivery person, saying “Hanapin niyo po si *name of one of the detainees.* Naka-detain po siya sa parking area.” (Please find *name of one of the detainees,* who is detained at the parking area.) (Photo by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao Productions)

Even the coconut juice vendor across the parking lot seem to be doing brisk business.

Supporters of ‘Tinang 83’ giving them fresh coconut juice through the fence. (Photo by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao Productions)

It has been two days since the detainees are being forced to suffer inhumane conditions. But there is another thing that keeps their spirits up: a stray kitten they managed to save from the brink of death.

The stray kitten the detainees saved and was later given the same name as the land they are fighting for. (Photo by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao Productions)

“It was already here in the parking lot when we were brought in. It was so weak and dying, ignored by the police who had their cars and motorcycles parked where it was. It could not even lift its head up. We fed it and let it drink water. Now, it eats on its own and walks around. So we gave it our red ribbons with slogans because it is now our comrade,” one of the student activists said.

They even gave it a name: Tinang.

(Text by Raymund B Villanueva, photos and video by Jek Alcaraz)

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