2 more wounded in Tagum land dispute; LGU and local police finally step in


Government officials have finally stepped in to avert further bloodshed in the Tagum City land dispute between agrarian reform beneficiaries and Lapanday Foods Corp, after two more farmers were wounded in an attack the corporation’s guards today.

The latest outbreak of violence brings to nine the number of farmers injured since beneficiaries asserted on December 9 their claim to land already awarded by the DAR and the regional trial court.

Wounded were Randy Rana and another farmer, surnamed Patindol, who were among seven members standing guard over field workers harvesting crop and then slashing down banana trees.

Aides of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano, who is issuing a cease and desist order today against Lapanday, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been coordinating since rthe initial outbreak of violence last Dec. 12.

Soon after word of the second attack broke, the DILG issued orders to local officials, prompting aid for beleaguered farmers.

In a telephone interview, Tagum Mayor Allan L Rellon, who reached the site around 10 am, said he had ordered the local police to disarm the guards.

Rellon also said he would put up a “command incident center” to prevent further violence.

Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro said, also in a phone interview, that local cops had initially refused to step in because the incident happened on private land.

He said both incidents were premeditated and without provocation from farmers.

Rellon said his office had attempted a dialogue in the city hall with the chief of police and provincial agrarian reform officials. He said it did not push through because farmers’ representatives would not leave their camp site on the disputed land.

Mantos said leaders wanted farmers to listen to the dialogue and they could not abandon the land because the armed guards would move in.

Read: Tagum shooting shows land conflicts still root of PH unrest

slashed-trees
MARBAI agrarian reform beneficiaries have harvested and slashed down around five hectares of banana crop, saying they would use the land for a vegetable farm to augment the food needs of their families. (Photo courtesy of Marbai Beneficiaries)

Slashed trees: Marbai representatives have  harvested and slashed down around five hectares of banana crop, saying they would plant the cleared land with vegetable crops to augment the food needs of 159 families.

Farmers were cutting down banana trees when guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, attacked this morning, according to Mantos.

Mantos said farmers had slashed at least five hectares of banana plantations yesterday.

“The guards would not let us farm and harvest in peace so we decided on an action that would also deprive them of what Lapanday wants to steal from us,” Mantos said in the local dialect.

He also said the cleared land would be rehabilitated and planted with vegetables and other crops that could augment the food needs of some 159 beneficiary families.

DAR actions

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had sent a legal team and held an emergency meeting after the first shooting incident last December 12.

It immediately ordered regional and provincial executives to probe the incident and file cases against some 20 perpetrators, led by the head guard only identified by his surname, Vicente.

Lawyer Jobert Pahilha, legal consultant for DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano, said officials would also file today with DARAB (adjudication board) Davao del Norte a motion for Execution of the May 12, 2016 order of installation and to Supervise Harvest.

Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano issued a ruling in December 2015 for the Marbai members to be installed on the disputed 145 hectares.

“The said decision has long been final and executory but was not implemented by PARAD Tillano for one reason or another,” Pahilga said.

In October this year, impatient farmer-beneficiaries camped out in front of the Lapanday gate. Mariano had dialogued with the farmers, saying the government wanted to install them peacefully without compromising their safety and security.

 

 

Update on Tagum shooting: DAR chief orders probe


Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has ordered the Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Region XI, and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office of Davao Del Norte to probe the reported gunfire attack by security guards of the Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) at the farmers’ encampment in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City.

A press release from the DAR said Mariano also instructed local DAR officials to coordinate with the Philippine National Police of Davao del Norte for the possible filing of cases against the suspects of the shooting incident.

What follows is the rest of the press release

“Six victims, including a 16-year-old minor, were taken to the Davao Regional Medical Center after sustaining gunshot wounds at around 7:45 a.m. An airborne craft was also seen spraying pesticide at the campsite immediately after the reported incident.

Farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) have been staging a camp-in protest at the LFC compound after successfully reclaiming the contested land last December 9, six years after the LFC evicted them out.

Almost 2,000 farmworkers and members of peasant organizations have joined the farmers’ camp in Brgy. Madaum to support the fight of the MARBAI farmers.

MARBAI members are farmer beneficiaries who were given Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Each of the 159 farmers owns a 0.79-hectare piece of the 145-hectare banana plantation.

According to Mely Yu, President of MARBAI, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC who buys their products for export. They were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were poorly classified for a lower price, thus, resulting to a measly Php 2,000.00 monthly income, she added. Because of the agreement, the farmer beneficiaries became indebted to LFC for more or less a billion pesos (P1,000,000,000.00)

The DAR has been meeting with the farmers for their installation to the 145 hectares as ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in his December 15, 2015 decision, which has long been final and executory.

In October of this year, when the farmer-beneficiaries were already in a camp-out in front of the gate of LFC, Secretary Mariano himself visited the farmers and had a dialogue with them assuring them that DAR is studying the matter carefully and wanted to install them peacefully into their landholding without compromising their safety and security.

Unfortunately, this incident happened.”