2 farmers killed, 6 wounded in Negros hacienda violence

Jun. 04, 2007

Two farmer-beneficiaries were killed and six others were wounded when security guards of former landowner Roberto Cuenca fired on some 100 farmer-beneficiaries who tried to cultivate their land this morning in Hacienda Velez-Malaga in Barangay Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

The incident occurred as elements of the Philippine National Police-Provincial Regional Mobile Group (PNP-PRMG) merely watched, according to farmers.

Killed on the very same land where they were installed nine weeks ago by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) were Alejandro Garcesa, 70, and Ely Tupas, 52, both holders of a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA).

Wounded were Jude Capitania, 32, Jobert Malayas, 25, Rene Florendia, 27, Alan Hagocoy, 26, Norberto Diamante, 47, and Andre Barcoma, 17.

Garcesa and Tupas were both participants of a month-long hunger strike in front of the DAR central office in Quezon City held by 25 Velez-Malaga farmer-beneficiaries to demand their immediate installation in the 114-hectare portion of the 446-hectare hacienda.

The hunger strike, which started on February 23, was lifted on March 22 after DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman installed 57 of the 122 CLOA holders in 53 hectares of the property, amid much media publicity.

However, despite the installation, the CLOA holders were prevented by DAR from occupying and cultivating their land on the excuse that a segregation survey of the property still has to be conducted.

There is, however, no legal impediment to the farmers cultivating their land pending the parcelization among themselves of the land which they own collectively.

Task Force Mapalad (TFM) president Jose Rodito Angeles condemned the incident, saying it showed that the DAR was not serious about the installation and the distribution of hacienda land to farmer-beneficiaries.

Angeles blamed Secretary Pangandaman for the incident, saying it was the result of his failure to immediately conduct the segregation survey which he promised to undertake within one week after the installation.

Since then, DAR had promised four times to conduct the segregation survey, and each time it was postponed.

Angeles also said that instead of conducting segregation survey, Pangandaman held negotiations with Cuenca for the standing crops.

Pangandaman and the local DAR officials used the so-called negotiations for standing crops to delay the segregation survey and to prevent the CLOA holders from occupying and cultivating their land. There was actually no point in holding the negotiation because the DAR had previously ordered Cuenca three times to stop cultivating the 114 hectares already awarded to the CLOA holders, Angeles said.

He said that after more than two months of waiting for DAR to conduct the survey, the farmer-beneficiaries decided to cultivate the 5-hectare portion of their land where they were installed last March 22 by Pangandaman.

Angeles also condemned the PNP-PRMG stationed in the hacienda for doing nothing to prevent the shooting.

The PRMG is headed by Senior Supt. Pedro Merced, who, according to farmers, is sympathetic to Cuenca.

The PRMG station was just in front of the guard house of Cuencas security men, but the policemen merely watched. They also did not bother to assist the farmer-beneficiaries who were already wounded, Angeles said.(30)

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