LUCENA CITY, Philippines—An official of a nongovernment organization (NGO) helping farmers on Bondoc Peninsula was enraged on Thursday over reports that corrupt government officials and scam artists had stolen millions of pesos from a fund intended for beneficiaries of agrarian reform.
Jansept Geronimo, campaign officer of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services (Quardds), said his group had long been begging for funds and legal assistance for hundreds of peasants wanted by the police for failure to post bail in harassment cases brought against them by their landlords.
Geronimo said the farmers failed to get even a single centavo from the government and were forced to live like fugitives away from their families.
“Then here are reports that millions of pesos for agrarian reform beneficiaries are being stolen left and right. This is nauseating and revolting,” Geronimo said in an interview here.
At least P900 million in royalties from the operation of the Malampaya gas project off Palawan province intended for agrarian reform beneficiaries went to a bogus NGO, according to a whistle-blower in the P10-billion pork racket now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation.
In Candelaria town, Mayor Ferdinand Maliwanag was surprised when he received queries from the Commission on Audit (COA) last year to authenticate his signature on documents supporting the release by the Department of Budget of Management of P7.5 million to Micro Agri Business Citizen Initiative Foundation Inc. (MABCF) for assistance to victims of Typhoon “Ondoy” in his town.
The MABCF is said to be one of the dummy NGOs put up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.
Maliwanag denied requesting for funding assistance from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
He also found out that his signatures in the documents had been forged and the supposed project never existed.
Geronimo lamented that hundreds of agrarian reform beneficiaries on Bondoc Peninsula were forced to surrender their rights to the land to various schemes devised by landowners due to the lack of support services from the government.
“Most often, the reply of government people is they have no funds,” Geronimo said.
He called on President Aquino to make good on his word about an exhaustive investigation of the scam and bring the culprits to court.
Geronimo also called on the national government to immediately stop the harassment of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the Bondoc Peninsula by landlords.
Police do nothing
He cited an incident on Tuesday, July 16, in San Francisco town, where a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries led by Maribel Luzara, president of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP), was about to haul several sacks of copra to sell when they were stopped by men hired by the owners of Hacienda Matias.
“The father of Maribel and several farmers were punched by the hacienda workers. And it happened in the presence of DAR officials and four local policemen who did nothing,” Geronimo said.
He said the copra remained inside the hacienda.
He recalled that in April, Luzara herself suffered physical abuse and harassment from hacienda men when she insisted on selling the copra produce on land given to her by the government.
The Bondoc Peninsula is the center of agrarian unrest in the third district of Quezon province.
Money for bail
According to the latest records of KMBP, 303 farmers from the vast estates of the Reyes and Matias clans in the area have been charged with trespassing and coconut theft.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of at least 54 of the farmers, who have been forced to go into hiding because they have no money to post bail.
Quardds estimates that P2.5 million is needed for the farmers’ bail.