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Fenced Aloguinsan land for sale—lawyer

/ 08:27 AM August 31, 2011

Heirs of Hacienda Gantuangco  want to to sell the farm’s 168 hectares of agricultural and coastal land in Aloguinsan town, where farmers have been trying to fight off eviction since the 1990s.

“The heirs observed there are a lot of illegal occupants. They decided to fence it to prevent further intrusion,” said the Gantuangco clan’s  lawyer Francisco Amit yesterday.

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A day after police dispersed a human barricade of about 200 farmers and militant supporters in barangay Bonbon, Aloguinsan, both sides declared they would file charges against each other.

Kim Mendoza, lawyer of the Farmer’s Development Center (Fardec), said the 39 persons, many of them farmers, who were arrested were illegally detained by police.

In a press conference, militant farmers showed a video of Monday’s confrontation between protestors and two platoons of anti-riot police who brought shields, batons and a fire truck.

Mendoza said they would file charges of unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, physical injures and robbery against the police and 78th Infantry Battalion.

Law enforcers, meanwhile, said they used “maximum tolerance” and were just assisting the sheriff implement a court order for the fencing of the disputed property by the Gantuangcos.

Senior Insp. Allan Cuizon of the Cebu Provincial Police Office, in a press conference, said those arrested  would be charged with  obstruction of justice, direct assault, malicious mischief and resisting arrest.

At 8:30 a.m. today, a separate hearing will be held on a criminal charge of contempt of court filed by the Gantuangco heirs against illegal settlers before the Regional Trial Court Branch 59 in Toledo City.

Female detainees were kept in the Pinamungahan municipal jail, while the men were taken to the Toledo City jail pending the filing of charges today.

Of the 39 arrested, two were minors and three were college students of the University of the Philippines in Cebu.  A 70-year-old male farmer was also arrested.

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AGRARIAN REFORM

The land, occupied by at least 86 farming households,  has been the focus of an agrarian reform conflict since the 1970s when occupants were made beneficiaries of Operation Land Transfer of the national government.

Fardec said the farmers had been tilling the cornfields since the time of their parents in 1910.

The Gantuangco family, however, continued to pay real taxes and have asserted ownership in court based on tax declarations.

Monday was the fifth time the family attempted fencing the land after they recovered the property from Manuel Zosa in 2002 following a court ruling, said their lawyer.  The lot was sold to Zosa 40 years ago for P600,000.

There are 89 heirs in the Gantuangco clan, and they want to sell the property and get their  rightful shares, said Amit.  He said the property has been pawned to the Profoods Co. for an undetermined amount.

“The heirs haven’t been able the use the land for 40 years. The farmers didn’t share their proceeds from the crops so the heirs decided to sell the property,” he said. The lawyer said he is coordinating with two of the heirs, Jufil Sato and Venus Perez.

He said the land was acquired by the Gantuangcos in the 1920s from the Paras family.  Felix and Juana Gantuangco have 10 children and 70  grandchildren who became heirs of the sprawling fields in barangay Bon-bon, Aloguinsan town.

From the start, farmers have resisted the fencing, he said.

He said there were 84 corn farmers at the start when the land was first acquired. Another 35 farmers were hired when the land was pawned to Zosa.

According to Fardec, threats of eviction were made by the Gantuangcos who told farmers to stop planting corn in the 1990s and stepped up the pressure this year. The farmers organized the San Roque Farmers Association in 1993 to defend their stay on the property.

In Monday’s clash, protesting farmers and their sympathizers threw plastic bags of urine and feces, Indian pana darts and water laced with acid or chili peppers at the police.

Amit, who was at the scene, said he thought protesters were just throwing water until he saw the splashed uniform of some policemen turn white.  He said he ran for cover, fearing it was muriatic acid.

The first riot started at 7 a.m. then subsided until six unruly protestors were picked up by the police. After a backhoe moved to another site, the driver was stoned and the fire truck’s hose was cut off.  When the fencing continued, another wave of commotion started with protestors throwing stones, human feces and acid.  Four policemen suffered burns on the back or were hit by slingshots.

Police dragged demonstrators out of the barricade and handcuffed several of them. /Jucell Marie P. Cuyos, and Candeze Mongaya , Reporter with correspondents Rhea Ruth Rosell and Carmel Matus

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