‘Land recipients’ get threats, says NGO
LUCENA CITY—What good will the farmers’ certificate of land ownership be if it would only expose them to danger?
Jansept Geronimo, campaign officer of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services (Quardds), said they had to rush to Bondoc Peninsula on Friday afternoon after receiving reports that most recipients of certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) in Hacienda Reyes given on Feb. 6 were being subjected to harassment and death threats.
Other farmers were warned their water lines would be cut and their houses fenced off from the rest of the village, Geronimo said over the phone from San Andres town on Saturday.
He said the threats and intimidation were aimed at instilling fear among the other tenants who have yet to receive their CLOA.
Geronimo said they would report the incidents to the police to determine the culprits behind them.
Quardds has been helping the Bondoc Peninsula farmers in their decades-old struggle to own the land they till.
Geronimo said they would immediately map out contingency plans to ensure the safety of farmer-leaders who received death threats.
“It is ironic that most CLOA beneficiaries are still hiding in fear from the warrants of arrest after the landowners slapped them with concocted charges. And now, here comes another new batch of fearful farmers who would probably join the rest in hiding,” he said.
Geronimo called on President Benigno Aquino III, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Justice to stop the wave of harassment against farmer-leaders and CLOA beneficiaries in Bondoc Peninsula.
Records of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP) showed that 303 criminal cases, mostly qualified theft of coconuts, had been filed against 223 tenants by several landlords in Bondoc Peninsula.
Maribel Luzara, KMBP president, said less than 50 wanted farmers could not go near their village and help their families cope with the harassment.
Geronimo said farms in the Matias estate in San Francisco town were being fenced off by the landowners to stop agrarian reform beneficiaries from taking possession of the land awarded to them.
The CHR said affected farmers “are now being prevented from reaping the fruits of their crops, consequentially, disconnecting them from their source of food and livelihood.”
On February 6, the Department of Agrarian Reform, led by Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, distributed CLOA for 480 hectares of some 2,000-ha Hacienda Reyes, owned by the scions of the late Don Domingo Reyes in San Narciso, Buenavista and San Andres.
De los Reyes said more land in Bondoc Peninsula would be distributed even after the end of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program next year because the government is determined to end the decades-old agrarian conflict in the province’s third district.