KMP condemns massacre of farmers in Fort Magsaysay

September 4, 2016

By KMP

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today condemned in the strongest terms the “massacre” of four farmers by armed goons of a politician-landgrabber in Nueva Ecija that opened fire against farmers inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) yesterday afternoon.

Reports coming from the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) said that the victims Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were joining the land cultivation activity (bungkalan or collective farming) of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 (ALMANA) inside the disputed 3,100 hectares Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.

The victims were resting after their farming chores when armed men opened fire against them between 2:00 and 3:00 PM, Saturday.

Another victim, Angelita Milan, was wounded and was brought to the PJG Memorial Hospital in Nueva Ecija.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this apparent massacre of farmers inside the Fort Magsaysay. This latest assault adds to the long list of rights abuses committed by landlord politicians against the peasantry who are struggling for genuine land reform and asserting their right to the lands,” says KMP chair Joseph Canlas.

Canlas, also AMGL chair, said two of the victims, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay, joined the land cultivation activity after they were displaced from their community when a landslide buried their homes at the height of the monsoon (Habagat) rains last month in Gabaldon town.

“These killings related to land dispute in Fort Magsaysay cause further alarm especially since the victims are ordinary, unarmed farmers who are only exercising their legitimate, democratic rights,” the peasant leader said.

Based on initial reports, the goons and armed men accountable for the killings were private security affiliated to Palayan City Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas of the notorious Joson political clan of Nueva Ecija and a certain Col. Rigor of the Nueva Ecija Crime Investigation and Detention Group.

Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) was awarded to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). On November 5, 1991, the administration of then president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino allotted 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation to over a thousand landless peasants, as well as to families evacuating from Pampanga after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The awarding was formalized with the issuance of a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung.

“By virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the Department of National Defense and the Department of Agrarian Reform, some 6,000 peasants and other residents should have acquired ownership of the lands they live on and till. But the CLOAs were rendered useless because it failed to defend the farmers’ rights over the lands,” Canlas said.

Since 2008, the military, particularly the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has been instrumental in denying Fort Magsaysay farmers of their rights to own the lands by asking the cancellation of the CLOAs,” the peasant leader said.

The KMP called on the Department of Agrarian Reform and the committees on human rights of both houses of Congress to probe this latest incident of killings against farmers.

“We challenge the Duterte government to give justice to the victims of the Fort Magsaysay carnage and hold the perpetrators accountable for this brutal assault against farmers,” Canlas said. #

Reference: Joseph Canlas, KMP Chair, 0927-4933729