6 Batangas farmers nabbed in PNP-Army operation
SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna, Philipines — Six farmers involved in a land dispute in Calaca town in Batangas province were arrested early on Sunday in a joint police and Philippine Army operation.
Col. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade, said it was an operation against illegal firearms by the Batangas police.
“We don’t know if they were members of the [New People’s Army]. We were there only to provide support and security in the periphery,” Rillera said in a phone interview.
But the militant human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) believed the mass arrests were related to a land dispute in Calaca’s Barangay Coral ni Lopez.
Uma said those arrested were members of the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Coral ni Lopez (Samacolo), who even helped in the distribution of the government cash aid a day before they were arrested. Some of them were village officials, it said.
Arrested were Leovino Julongbayan, a village councilor; Virgilio Vidal, Samacolo leader and village secretary, and his brother, Marcelo; Doroteo Bautista; July Julongbayan; and Roilan Tenorio.
Residents reported seeing at least 17 government vehicles and two military trucks scouring the houses of sugarcane farmers in the village, which has been on lockdown since the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease.
Rillera said the government troops were armed with a search warrant issued on May 7 by Executive Judge Cynthia Mariño-Ricablanca of the Regional Trial Court in Sta. Cruz town, Laguna province.
Authorities claimed they also recovered explosives and guns. But Karapatan spokesperson Kyle Angelo Salgado claimed those were “illegally planted evidence.”
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