Hundreds of farmers from Bulacan and Bohol led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) rally the gates of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) today for the failure to act over the worsening cases of harassment and killings caused by private armies and military in peasant communities.
“We are appalled by the negligence and impunity the DILG and the DAR perpetuates in the militarization of farm lands,” says KMP secretary general noting that even farmer-beneficiaries under what the group described as ‘bogus’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), like Roger Vargas, and his wife Lucila, were killed due to a land dispute in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.
Directly under DILG, both the municipal and provincial offices of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bulacan have failed to determine the so-called interested party that hired the security guards which had a heated argument with slain couple a day before their brutal murder.
On the other hand, Bohol farmers protested the increased militarization of farmlands in the town of Trinidad as shown in the construction of military camp of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army in the more than 600-hectare land covered by CARP.
“Ironically, government agencies that are supposed to protect its people are the ones attacking us. The attempts to shut down our Sitio Panaghiusa Rice Mill located in an agrarian reform area in Barangay San Vicente, in the Municipality of Trinidad, Bohol have been ceaseless. DILG together with Governor Edgardo Chato have been instrumental in the illegal encroachment of the military camp responsible for numerous cases of harassments against the rice mill beneficiaries,” says Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) chairperson Danilo Olayvar.
A reported incident last July 22, 2014 in which 40 elements of the military led by provincial agriculture officer Liza Quirog barged into the rice mill warehouse. The armed troops surrounded the rice mill while Quirog along with armed military personnel, without permission, entered the warehouse and intimidated the resident staff.
Farmers from Bohol belonging to the Trinidad–Talibon Integrated Farmers Association (TTFA) and rice farmers of Ubay, Trinidad, Talibon, San Miguel, Mabini and Dagohoy are facing grave threats from the Bohol local government, various agencies and state armed forces as they are being coerced to close down the the 300-square meter Sitio Panaghiusa Rice Mill and Warehouse, a medium-scale milling and marketing facility Barangay San Vicente operated by TTFA which provide services and assistance to farmers in at least 30 villages.
An International Fact-Finding Mission in Trinidad, Bohol last September 20-22 revealed that the illegal encroachment of a military camp in agrarian reform areas continuously threatens the lives of local farmers in Trinidad and nearby municipalities. Harassment against farmers are carried out through the Countrywide Development Program-Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM), initiated by the Bohol LGU with the active participation of the AFP’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion.
“We are seeing a general trend of intensifying brutal attacks across the country as peasant leaders, indigenous peoples, and civilians have become open targets of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan,” says KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
Tanggol Magsasaka have accounted more than 200 extra judicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples and 723 cases of incarceration on fabricated charges under Aquino’s reign.
“Oplan Bayahinhan, in it’s final wave of wreaking havoc in rural communities, have resorted to targeting civilians and leaders of people’s organizations. The president’s last days in office is being characterized by brutal killings and political attacks of farmers. We demand Aquino to immediately put a stop to his Oplan Bayanihan,” Flores said.
“This culture of impunity and inaction affirms that the Aquino government is a landlord regime with no interest of helping the predicament of farmers. In fact, it is Aquino’s counter-insurgency program that is responsible for more than 160 extrajudicial killings of peasants, incarcerated hundreds for trumped-up charges and harassed thousands from the rural areas. Farmers of Bulacan and Bohol have been struggling for decades to defend their rights to land. We demand the immediate pull out of all private armies and military troops in peasant communities,” ended Flores. ###