Authorities step in to stop harassment of farmers
LUCENA CITY—A police task force composed of veteran investigators has been sent to San Andres town, Quezon province, to unmask and arrest those behind the wave of terror against farmers fighting to protect their land.
“My order is to immediately stop the wave of violence against the helpless farmers. Unmask and arrest the culprits behind the death threats,” said Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Quezon police chief.
Ylagan appealed to the farmers to cooperate with police investigators.
The task force was formed on the orders of Governor David Suarez, who also ordered the provincial legal team to help the farmers.
The governor also called on the Department of Agrarian Reform to speed up land distribution in the Bondoc Peninsula.
“Give land to the landless and provide them all with government support and peace automatically follows,” said Suarez.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Southern Tagalog has also vowed to help and protect the 16 farmer leaders in the Bondoc Peninsula who have been receiving death threats following the still unsolved killing of a woman land rights activist in October.
Edgar de Luna, CHR regional director, said the CHR had conducted an initial investigation but results were still not conclusive.
“We will return to the area to finish our investigation,” he said.
Ylagan urged the farmers, leaders of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP), to help police. “They should not be afraid,” said Ylagan.
The farmers are hesitant to file complaints due to the perception that the suspects have the backing of influential persons.
Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan), said the farmers were now willing to cooperate with police. Katarungan is one of several groups helping the farmers.
Some of the farmers went into hiding after reports of the harassment came out, said Geronimo. “They expect retaliation. They are not taking any chances,” he said.
De Luna added that the CHR would also summon an Army soldier as a possible witness to the killing of Elisa Tulid, a peasant leader, on October 19.
Tulid, a KMBP leader, was shot and killed by a lone suspect while she and her husband were walking home. Tulid died on the spot while her husband survived the attack.
A suspect in the killing, identified as Ranny Bugnot, has been arrested and detained at the municipal jail.
Geronimo said Bugnot was one of the henchmen of a landlord in San Andres who is also the principal suspect in the multiple death threats against the 16 farmer leaders.
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