Suits to stop land reform continue

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LUCENA CITY – The harassment of peasant leaders in Quezon continues after the head of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP) was charged with a third criminal case involving farm products.

“I was accused of stealing and selling my own copra produce. This is another case of harassment and intimidation against our ranks,” Maribel Luzara said.

Luzara said a caretaker of the vast Matias estate in San Francisco town accused her of violating the antifencing law when she sold several sacks of copra on April 2, 2013.

In a copy of the charge sheet filed on May 7, Noel Milano, a tenant-farmer of the Matias estate, accused Luzara and 10 others of selling copra, which Milano alleged were his.

Luzara said she learned of the complaint only after receiving a copy of a subpoena on June 11.

Milano based his complaint on the sworn statement of the estate’s caretaker, Aladin Catandihan Jr., who alleged that on April 2, he saw how Luzara and her coaccused stole copra from Milano’s farm and later sold these to a trader in San Francisco.

But Luzara insisted that the coconuts that she and her coaccused had turned into copra were harvested from their “leasehold farms” that were granted to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

She gave the Inquirer a copy of the DAR decision dated November 2012 and signed by Milo Dizon, the municipal agrarian reform officer of San Francisco town, naming her as one of the beneficiaries of the leasehold farms inside the Matias estate that were placed under agrarian reform.

“As a matter of fact, before we sell the copra, we informed our barangay captain and the Matias caretaker. But both of them told us that they don’t want to get involved,” Luzara said.

She said before they went to the warehouse of the copra trader in the town proper, they first reported their intention to the local police station “because that what was one of the provision of the DAR decision.”

During their transaction with the copra trader, Luzara said Catandihan and another Matias worker tried to stop the sale but were prevented by police.

Luzara said that after receiving the P12,000 payment for her copra, she deposited the landowner share of P1,500 to the Land Bank of the Philippines branch in nearby Mulanay town.

Luzara said she asked the DAR for legal assistance because she could not afford to pay for a lawyer.

“I’ve already spent the copra money paying our debts,” she said. Luzara said she would also bring her case to the Commission on Human Rights.

“These senseless and concocted criminal charges are violations of my human rights,” she said.

Records of KMBP showed that 303 criminal cases, mostly for theft of coconuts, have been filed against 223 agrarian reform beneficiaries.

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