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NEW ROUND OF VIOLENCE

3 farmers in Tagum wounded in latest attack in disputed land

/ 12:40 AM December 15, 2016
Farmers belonging to a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries are confronted by armed guards of an agricultural firm in the village of Madaum in Tagum City. —PHOTO COURTESY OF KILAB MULTIMEDIA

Farmers belonging to a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries are confronted by armed guards of an agricultural firm in the village of Madaum in Tagum City. —PHOTO COURTESY OF KILAB MULTIMEDIA

TAGUM CITY—Mayor Allan Rellon has warned local police officials that heads would roll if they failed to help farmers who had complained of attacks from security guards reportedly employed by an agricultural firm here.

Rellon also threatened to disarm the guards involved in the shooting of protesting farmers in Barangay Madaum here as tension over a disputed farmland flared anew.

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On Wednesday, three more farmers, who belong to a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), were wounded after they were shot by guards allegedly employed by Lapanday Foods Corp. to man the firm’s banana plantation. The latest incident came two days after guards shot a group of 50 farmers on its way to harvest bananas on Monday, leaving 7 wounded.

Lapanday, in an earlier statement, denied its involvement in Monday’s attack. The company, on Wednesday, had still to issue a statement on the latest incident.

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Antonio Tuyak, spokesperson of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (Marbai), said at least 20 armed guards, who they suspected to be from the Lapanday, maneuvered around the contested land and shot five farmers working in the field early Wednesday.

The farmers described their attackers as a mix of men wearing security guard uniforms and street clothes.

Marbai and Lapanday are embroiled in a 145-hectare land dispute after ARBs in the area accused the company of landgrabbing.

“I would relieve any police officer who would refuse to respond to the farmers’ plea,” Rellon said, after farmers complained of the slow response of the Tagum City police during Monday’s incident.

“If they would not act on your pleas for assistance, I would ask even [President Duterte] for help,” Rellon told the farmers and their supporters who were manning a barricade in the plantation on Wednesday.

Elaiza Mendoza, city interior and local government officer, said the Tagum police sent an investigation team to look into incidents of violence in the area.

The farmers set up a barricade last week after their demands to end a contract growing program with the company remain unresolved.

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Local officials summoned representatives of protesting farmers and of Lapanday to a consultation on Wednesday to address the standoff but no one came.

Tuyak said they could not attend the dialogue because it was scheduled to be held in San Isidro village, which is far from where the farmers are encamped.

“We wanted the dialog to be held here so that every farmer can hear what we are discussing,” Tuyak said. “I don’t understand why the mayor wanted to have the talks held somewhere else.

“If we leave, the guards might come back and seize our position,” he added.

Earlier, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said he would seek a congressional investigation into the violence in Madaum.

“We will file a resolution in Congress, not only to condemn but also to investigate the reasons behind these dastardly acts against our poor agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Zarate said. —FRINSTON LIM AND KARLOS MANLUPIG

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TAGS: agrarian, Agriculture, Allan Rellon, attack, farmer, Land, Lapanday Foods Corp., Tagum, Violence
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