Army in standoff vs Palayan farmers
PALAYAN CITY—Army soldiers were locked in a standoff for the last four days last week at a farming village here against a group of farmers, 14 of whom were formally evicted by a court sheriff on July 15.
The soldiers were deployed to fence off farmlands within a military reservation here, enforcing a December 2014 order of Judge Evelyn Turla of the regional trial court here.
From Wednesday to Saturday last week, however, the farmers had encamped on a road leading to the farming community in Sitio Mindoro, Barangay Caballero, to prevent soldiers from taking over.
A commotion ensued on July 18 when soldiers began setting up a barbed fence after some of the protesting farmers left to prepare their farmlands for planting.
The fence now crosses an irrigation canal built for the farming community in 1983 by the National Irrigation Administration, said Felix Rombaoa, president of the local irrigators’ association.
Col. Emerito Pineda, camp commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division based here, declined to comment.
The soldiers accompanied court sheriff Rubentito Alomia on July 15 to enforce the court order by directing the farmers to hand over their land to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The sheriff said Turla’s order was final and executory.
Pineda and Senior State Solicitor General Ma. Lourdes Leones were with Alomia when she served the court order.
The farmers said they were resisting the court order because they petitioned the Supreme Court on July 6 to stop Turla’s order.
According to their petition, some 200 farming families had been living in and tilling these farms since the 1930s before the lands were proclaimed part of a military reservation.
Tension gripped the village on Wednesday when a group of men began clearing the area for fencing. Villagers began to flock to the area to support the farmers.
Policemen and members of the Nueva Ecija police’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit were sent to maintain order when more people from neighboring villages joined the blockade.
The police had since left the area.
Remedios Pascua, Caballero village chair, said the court order evicting 14 farmers affected the rest of the community because the order did not carry detailed information that would allow the sheriff to determine which lands needed to be relinquished to the military.
“Will the court just order anyone to leave because they can’t pinpoint the lot that is subject of the case?” she asked.
The farmers first sued the military and former AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., for trespassing when the Army set up a detachment on the disputed lands.
The farmers won the trespassing complaint filed against the AFP in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) in October 2013. However, the MTC ruling was reversed and set aside by Turla in her 2014 order which addressed the issue of ownership, land registration and the eviction, according to records.
The farmers said they went to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals’ 12th Division, in a June 16 resolution, merely noted their petition to review Turla’s decision. Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.