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Former movie director accuses armed group of taking his land

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Former movie director accuses armed group of taking his land

MANILA, Philippines—A former film director-writer and newspaper columnist has sought the help of police officials after a group of armed men allegedly attacked him and his son and grabbed part of his property in Antipolo City, Rizal.

In a phone interview, Mauro Gia Samonte, 70, former Manila Times columnist, said he went to Camp Crame on Wednesday to complain about the failure of Antipolo policemen to take action on his case.

According to Samonte, a group of men armed with shotguns led by Jumel Lirazan trespassed on his 5,000-sqm property on Sumulong Highway in Sitio (settlement) Upper Lucban, Barangay (village) Sta. Cruz, four times in an attempt to grab the land.

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He claimed that on their third try to take over his land, the men hit him in the face with a hollow block. He added that his son was also attacked and suffered cuts in the head.

Samonte said that on April 26, the group succeeded in taking over half of his property when they came at around 4 a.m. and fenced off the portion they were claiming.

“We woke up [to] a blinding light. These men, around 20, threatened to kill us. What can people like us do against these men with firearms?” he added.

Samonte said that although the injuries he and his son suffered have almost healed, they continue to live in fear because the armed men have set up camp beside their house.

According to him, the trespassers have not shown any court order to prove their claim to the property. Samonte, however, said that he has lived on the land since the ’70s.

“But they act as if higher authorities are backing them up,” he observed.

Worse, he said, the Antipolo police have yet to take action on his case.

“When I asked for help, [they] just told me they couldn’t lift a hand against these people because my case was a property dispute,” he said. “But this is not a mere property dispute. These men are committing a crime.”

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Senior Superintendent Rodino Elfa, Antipolo police chief, confirmed Samonte’s account of the attacks on him and his family and said that he brought the two parties together four times to try to settle the matter but nothing came out of the meetings.

“We can only set up a meeting so they can talk and settle the case peacefully. But we can’t give Mr. Samonte the security he wants unless [he] brings this issue to court and the court decides on it,” Elfa said in a phone interview.

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