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DAR stops Lapanday guards from evicting banana farmers in Tagum

/ 09:35 PM December 15, 2016
Unarmed banana farmers face masked and black-shirted armed guards of the Lapanday Food Corp. on Dec. 9, 2016.  The farmers said 31 shots were fired by the guards to scare away farmers trying to occupy lands awarded to them under the government's agrarian reform program.  Nobody was hurt in that encounter.  But on Dec. 12, 2016, seven farmers were shot and wounded by the Lapanday guards.  (PHOTO RELEASE OF THE UNYONG NG MGA MANGGAGAWA SA AGRIKULTURA)

Unarmed banana farmers face masked and black-shirted armed guards of the Lapanday Food Corp. on Dec. 9, 2016. The farmers said 31 shots were fired by the guards to scare away farmers trying to occupy lands awarded to them under the government’s agrarian reform program. Nobody was hurt in that encounter. But on Dec. 12, 2016, seven farmers were shot and wounded by the Lapanday guards. (PHOTO RELEASE OF THE UNYON NG MGA MANGGAGAWA SA AGRIKULTURA)

MANILA — Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano has issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) and its security guards from evicting farmers who have reclaimed a 145-hectare banana plantation in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City, that was awarded to them in 1996 under the agrarian reform program.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) announced the order three days after seven farmers were hurt, two of them critically, when guards reportedly opened fire at the encamped farmers who have organized themselves into the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) cooperative.

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Mariano also ordered DAR Region 12 director John Maruhom and Davao del Norte provincial agrarian reform program officer Jocelyn Seno to coordinate with the Philippine National Police to file cases against the assailants.

The former militant peasant leader also ordered the DAR officials to get police and military assistance to secure the farmers from further harassment.

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MARBAI president Mely Yu wrote on December 13 asking Mariano to intervene after several of their members were injured in a series of assaults by alleged LFC security guards on December 12.

On December 14, at least three more people were reportedly wounded and several others including women were reportedly held hostage by LFC guards.

DAR described Lapanday as a “multi-billion export company of tropical products such as bananas and pineapples” owned by several parties, including former agriculture secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo.

In 1996, DAR awarded the farmers with a collective certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) that gave each of the 159 farmer-beneficiaries a 7,900-square-meter-lot in the banana plantation.

Last October, Mariano visited the farmers, who were already camped out at the gate of the LFC compound. He promised the farmers DAR would push for their peaceful occupation of the lands.

According to Yu, they were forced to enter a banana sales and marketing agreement with LFC, which buys their products for export.

She said they were tricked into selling high-grade bananas for a lower price, so farmers have only been earning P2,000 monthly.

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She said the agreement has caused the farmer beneficiaries to accumulate a debt of almost P1 billion with LFC.  SFM

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Banana farmers, banana plantation, Barangay Madaum, cease and desist order, Certificate of Land Ownership Award, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, Crime, Davao Del Norte, Department of Agrarian Reform, Eviction, frustrated homicide, frustrated murder, harassment, Jocelyn Seno, John Maruhom, Lapanday Foods Corp., law enforcement, Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc., Mely Yu, Philippine National Police, Rafael Mariano, Security guards, Shooting, Tagum City, Violence
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