Farmers belie police report that argument led to killing of Negros farmers

Jun. 06, 2007

MANILA — Task Force Mapalad (TFM) belied reports that a heated argument between farmer-beneficiaries and security guards of Hacienda Velez-Malaga in La Castellana, Negros Occidental ensued prior to the shooting last Monday that left two farmer-beneficiaries killed and six others wounded.

TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said the farmer-beneficiaries, numbering about a hundred, were working on the 5-hectare portion of the hacienda when three security guards of former landowner Roberto Cuenca took position behind trees and started firing their shotguns.

Killed in the shooting were Alejandro Garcesa, 70, and Ely Tupas, 52, while wounded were Jude Capitania, 32, Jobert Malayas, 25, Rene Florendia, 27, Alan Hagocoy, 26, Norberto Diamante, 47, and Andre Barcoma, 17.

Angeles said the farmer-beneficiaries were caught by surprise, but some of them were able to maneuver and drive away the security guards rocks and slingshots.

The police were just saying there was an argument between the farmers and the guards to hide the fact that they did nothing to prevent the shooting. They merely watched. Only after some 30 minutes, when an angry farmer-beneficiary berated them, did they try to intervene, but even then they did not try to help the injured farmers, he said.

Mario Daquio, a farmer-beneficiary, said: We were cultivating our land when three security guards hid behind trees and started firing at us. We were surprised and scrambled in different directions.

Daquio added that when they saw their companions hit, they chased away the guards by throwing rocks by using slingshots.

Florenda Hilario, another farmer-beneficiary, said that before they entered the 5-hectare portionthe very site where they were installed by DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman last March 22they talked to the commanding officer of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) detachment in the hacienda and asked for protection.

Hilario said the RMG detachment was just across the road where the guardhouse of the haciendas security men was located.

She said that the RMG commanding officer, 1st Sergeant Ricky Padasas, refused to assist because there was still no word from DAR.

We decided to enter our land because we felt that the DAR was again giving us the run around for too long. No heated arguments with Cuencas blue guards took place. The guards fired at us without provocation when we were already on the field, Daquio said.

She said the shooting, based on the timeline of photographs taken of the incident, started at 10.03 a.m. and lasted for 13 minutes, before the RMG tried to intervene.

She added that a contingent of the Philippine Army arrived at around 11:30 a.m. to block the group of Cuencas workers who had massed up and threatened to attack the farmer-beneficiaries.

She said the police had not arrested any of the blue guards involved in the shooting. The police have made some arrests, but they were the wrong guys, she said.(30)

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