Philippines: Negros killings — the trail of blood leads to Malacanang

Jun. 05, 2007

MANILA — Alejandro Garcesa, 70, and Ely Tupas, 52, were killed, and six of their companions were wounded, by security guards of former landowner Roberto Cuenca right on the very piece of land where they were installed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) last March 22.

Garcesa and Tupas were killed even as elements of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG), stationed in the hacienda to keep peace and prevent violence, watched the slaughter without a bit of concern.

Garcesa and Tupas are the 11th and 12th members of Task Force Mapalad in Negros Occidental to have died of violence perpetrated by landowners who resist the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The list of victims of agrarian-related killings has grown since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Agrarian-related killings, like political killings, have become an added icon to the reign of impunity of this administration.

The farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Velez-Malaga have come to realize that they cannot take possession of their own land without spilling blood as long as President Arroyo is in power.

Why? Because the Hacienda Velez-Malaga is a family affair.

Roberto Cuenca and Ignacio Arroyo, the Presidents brother-in-law, are family by virtue of the former union of their children.

It is in the interest of the family to protect the landholdings of Roberto Cuenca against agrarian reform.

Thus, there has been a concerted effort to deprive the farmer-beneficiaries of their right to own and take possession of their land.

Malacaang is part of this effort. We now realize that it is not out of concern for the farmer-beneficiaries that it gave the order for installation last March 22. It is out of concern for the implication of the then farmers hunger strike and protests to the coming May elections.

Three of the Velez-Malaga farmer-beneficiaries are already dead. The first to die was Pepito Santillan Sr., who was killed by Cuenca s men last January. But we, the farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Velez-Malaga will not give up our fight for our land.

We may all die, but someday Cuenca and all those who conspire to deprive us of our right to our land may reap the fruit of what they sow.(30)

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