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CHR probes alleged arbitrary arrest of Tarlac farmers, activists

/ 01:16 PM June 14, 2022
Activist farmers and land reform advocates on Friday assembled in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to decry the arrest of "Tinang 93" — the 93 farmers, advocates, and students arrested at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac. 

Policemen were accused of manhandling in their arrest of 93 land reform beneficiaries and advocates in Tinang, Concepcion, province of Tarlac, Philippines. (Photo: Mark Saludes/LiCAS.ne)

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has opened a probe into the alleged arbitrary arrest by police of farmers and some land reform advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac, during a community planting session.

CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia said on Tuesday that their teams in Central Luzon have started talking to farmers and other personalities in connection with the arrest of the so-called ‘Tinang 93’ — named after Hacienda Tinang, a farmland in Concepcion’s Barangay Tinang, which the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) tried to till.

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“The [CHR] is already investigating the case involving the alleged arbitrary arrest and detention of around 90 farmers, land reform advocates, media, and students after the conduct of a ‘bungkalan’ (cooperative planting) at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac on Thursday, 9 June 2022,” de Guia said in a statement.

“CHR Region III has started gathering information from the arrested farmers and their supporters; the farmers who filed a complaint; and the local Philippine National Police since Friday, 10 June 2022. CHR’s Investigation Office at the Central Office will also be joining the independent investigation efforts moving forward given the extent and complexity of the issue at hand,” she added.

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According to de Guia, there were also allegations that the detention facility where the arrested individuals were placed was unfit to host that many detainees.

The CHR also gave assurance to government authorities that its investigation would be independent, especially since there are claims that the group had started the ruckus by plucking out sugarcane and other crops in the area.

“Since their detention, there were also allegations of physical and mental abuse, inhumane conditions at the detention facility, and red-tagging experienced by the group,” she noted.

“CHR commits to look into every aspect of the allegations of human rights violations linked to the said incident. With clashing claims, we hope our independent investigation can contribute to achieving greater clarity of the issue, a just and equitable resolution, and greater respect and protection of the rights of all. CHR looks forward to the cooperation of all concerned to reach this end,” she said.

A total of 93 people were arrested during the community planting or “bungkalan” held by members of Makisama Tinang, one of the groups that have been fighting for farmers’ rights in the area.  Some of the arrested individuals have been released early on, but others — including campus journalists — waited until Monday.

The land feud has been a long struggle between ARBs and a cooperative allegedly handled by local officials in Concepcion. Last February, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story regarding tensions rising in the area, as the ARBs staged a protest against the Tinang Samahang Nayon Multi-Purpose Cooperative’s request to revise the certificate of land ownership.

READ: After 34 years, Tarlac land feud yet to end

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The issue of who really owned the land is also being looked at by CHR, as the farmers insisted that part of the land sold by the Catholic Church for agrarian reform was awarded to them.

“When responding police officers from Police Regional Office III tried to pacify them, the police said that the farmers allegedly became unruly and tried to obstruct the law enforcers from performing their official duties, which (led) to the arrest,” de Guia said.

“However, the farmers—particularly, the seven farmers from the around 90 people arrested—assert that they are legitimate agrarian reform beneficiaries of the land, with a Certificate of Land Ownership Award title issued in 1995 for the 200-hectare disputed land, and are just waiting for their official installation as the decision was never enforced,” she added.

De Guia also asked the Department of Agrarian Reform to check the matter to end the land conflict.

“With the disputed nature of the said land, we urge the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to look into the matter to finally ascertain how to move forward given the pending land conflict. CHR will also be reaching out to DAR,” she said.

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TAGS: agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Tarlac, Tinang 93
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