“Local DAR officials and speculators are colluding to eject the legitimate farmers, they are employing the municipal and provincial police, the military’s 81st Infantry Battalion (IBPA) but the legitimate farmers are standing their ground for their basic rights,” Joseph Canlas said, AMGL Chairperson.
“This syndicate is also using the mob-for-hire group Alab Katipunan as they did last May 28 when they attempted to occupy the lands with the presence of local police and the military,” he added.
The disputed lands were once part of Hacienda Davis covered by CARP when it was passed. DAR then leased the lands to a cotton plantation agro-corporation but it ceased operation in 1991. The lands became idle and non-productive, thus, 142 poor farmers from brgy. Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio and Yuson commenced in cultivating the lands. In 1995, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) held its anniversary at Guimba as it served as a model for peasant struggle for genuine land reform.
During the onslaught of Oplan Bantay Laya from 2005 to 2007, military abuses resulted to 1 case of extra-judicial killing, 2 enforced disappearances. The area has been documented for 1 terror-induced suicide of Merly Flores as she was a constant victim of military abuse, worse, his husband has been mentally ill. The military conducted many tactical interrogation among the farmers.
In 2007, DAR has pushed in processing the claim of ListaSaka (list of farmer-beneficiaries) and attempted to displace the cultivating farmers. The ListaSaka was led by Pedro Esguerra and Cerelino Guimba. The legitimate farmers said that these two were involved in selling lands such as the lot where a local church was constructed. They added that ListaSaka is funded by a relative of Esguerra interested in buying the lands. ListaSaka colluded with DAR officials to file an ejectment case against the local leader of legitimate farmers.
Last year, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO), Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) and Land Bank set up a cooperative including those with ListaSaka and involving the disputed lands. Alongwith, the military established a detachment covering the said barangays and regularly maintained by 13 elements of the 81IBPA.
Last May 28, ListaSaka accompanied with paid mob of Alab Katipunan attempted to occupy the lands causing skirmishes with the legitimate farmers. The provincial police attempted to mediate a negotiation but the legitimate farmers preferred to raise the issue with the DAR Central Office in Quezon City as Guimba police chief Renato David is a cousin of ListaSaka’s Esguerra.
On June 2, the dialogue between DAR national officials, ListaSaka and legitimate farmers resulted into the forming of a Task Force as ordered by the DAR III regional office this coming June 9. The forming of the Task Force to investigate the issue has been ordered by DAR III last March but PARO North Nueva Ecija pushed with the installation of ListaSaka. The memorandum signed by Undersecretary for Field Operations Narciso Nieto mentioned to consider the legitimate farmers demand (1) to investigate alleged anomalies and lack of due proces, (2) to immediately stop the planned installation by PARO of farmer-beneficiaries, (3) ensure that the property they are cultivating is not a real estate area and (4) recognize their rights as actual tillers of the land.
“The very root cause of this dispute is CARP itself as it was used by MARO and PARO to collude with ListaSaka. It is very clear that they are planning to cover the lands under CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’ where small farmers would not be able to pay amortization, thus, it would only lead to speculation by interested real estate developers. If only MARO and PARO have awarded the lands to the those cultivating the lands, conflict would then be avoided,” Canlas said.
“We also demand that the DAR national office should look deeper to this issue as agrarian reform officials have been working as a syndicate, brokering lands for interested buyers, at the cost of displacing farmers, this is the very futility of CARP as farmers’ rights could not be protected,” he added. #