Government officials have finally stepped in to avert further bloodshed in the Tagum City land dispute between agrarian reform beneficiaries and Lapanday Foods Corp, after two more farmers were wounded in an attack the corporation’s guards today.
The latest outbreak of violence brings to nine the number of farmers injured since beneficiaries asserted on December 9 their claim to land already awarded by the DAR and the regional trial court.
Wounded were Randy Rana and another farmer, surnamed Patindol, who were among seven members standing guard over field workers harvesting crop and then slashing down banana trees.
Aides of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano, who is issuing a cease and desist order today against Lapanday, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been coordinating since rthe initial outbreak of violence last Dec. 12.
Soon after word of the second attack broke, the DILG issued orders to local officials, prompting aid for beleaguered farmers.
In a telephone interview, Tagum Mayor Allan L Rellon, who reached the site around 10 am, said he had ordered the local police to disarm the guards.
Rellon also said he would put up a “command incident center” to prevent further violence.
Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro said, also in a phone interview, that local cops had initially refused to step in because the incident happened on private land.
He said both incidents were premeditated and without provocation from farmers.
Rellon said his office had attempted a dialogue in the city hall with the chief of police and provincial agrarian reform officials. He said it did not push through because farmers’ representatives would not leave their camp site on the disputed land.
Mantos said leaders wanted farmers to listen to the dialogue and they could not abandon the land because the armed guards would move in.
Slashed trees: Marbai representatives have harvested and slashed down around five hectares of banana crop, saying they would plant the cleared land with vegetable crops to augment the food needs of 159 families.
Farmers were cutting down banana trees when guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, attacked this morning, according to Mantos.
Mantos said farmers had slashed at least five hectares of banana plantations yesterday.
“The guards would not let us farm and harvest in peace so we decided on an action that would also deprive them of what Lapanday wants to steal from us,” Mantos said in the local dialect.
He also said the cleared land would be rehabilitated and planted with vegetables and other crops that could augment the food needs of some 159 beneficiary families.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had sent a legal team and held an emergency meeting after the first shooting incident last December 12.
It immediately ordered regional and provincial executives to probe the incident and file cases against some 20 perpetrators, led by the head guard only identified by his surname, Vicente.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilha, legal consultant for DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano, said officials would also file today with DARAB (adjudication board) Davao del Norte a motion for Execution of the May 12, 2016 order of installation and to Supervise Harvest.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano issued a ruling in December 2015 for the Marbai members to be installed on the disputed 145 hectares.
“The said decision has long been final and executory but was not implemented by PARAD Tillano for one reason or another,” Pahilga said.
In October this year, impatient farmer-beneficiaries camped out in front of the Lapanday gate. Mariano had dialogued with the farmers, saying the government wanted to install them peacefully without compromising their safety and security.