“We congratulate the farmers for their successful bungkalan as these guards have been on the land since last year, disrupting their farmwork, resulting to their loss of income,” said Joseph Canlas, Chairperson of AMGL who also joined the farmers’ contingent.
“The guards were helpless as we overwhelmed them with our numbers, the Hacienda Luisita farmers belonging to AMBALA supported the cultivation, they also helped in lending the handtractors,” Canlas added.
Prior to this, the armed guards employed by St. Tropez, blocked irrigation canals resulting to damaging of crops and harassed farmers attending to their crops. The presence of the armed guards resulted to significant loss of income and debt.
The disputed lands are being claimed by St. Tropez Holdings Corp., controlled by Martin Lorenzo of Pancake House Group and Macondray and former finance undersecretary Gabriel Singson, Jr.. Singson is also the son of former Central Bank governor Gabriel Singson, Sr. The firm deployed armed guards as since July of last year, fenced the 63-hectares of lands, prompting the farmers to file cases of forcible entry. The court decided in favor of the farmers but the firm defied the order compelling the farmers to dismantle the fences on November 29.
St. Tropez base their claim to a land title named to their corporate secretary Atty. Janette Peña and corporate lawyer Atty. Bob Guinto. Peña is also with Lorenzo in Pancake House Group while Guinto is with NMGRA law firm. But the farmers said that their title was illegal as it could be traced to a certain Teresita Cruz, who was an administrator of sugarcane production during the 1970s who the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had no legal claim as the lands are under the Republic Act 1400 or Land Reform Code of 1955.
“This is an issue of determination, St. Tropez deployed armed guards illegally, thus, the farmers have no other option but the combined strength with other farmers to actually till their land,” Canlas said.
AMGL also said that the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) of Tarlac have contributed to this problem as they have not protected the rights of farmers allowing land speculators such as St. Tropez to suddenly claim lands.
“We are aware that more speculators, developers and land grabbers would claim lands in Tarlac as a result of the SCTEX, anticipating the would-be surge of market value of lands. With this kind of situation, the farmers all have their fellow farmers to protect their rights,” Canlas said. #