DAR orders probe of Tagum violence as tensions persist after Lapanday guards reenter disputed land

on . Posted in DAR In The News
interaksyon logoMANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Agrarian Reform has ordered an investigation into Monday’s violence in Tagum City that left seven farmers, including a teenager, wounded when security guards opened fire on agrarian reform beneficiaries attempting to take back land they said had been awarded to them. But tensions continued to persist at the banana plantation operated by the Lapanday Foods Corporation in Barangay Madaum Tuesday when armed guards and purported “goons” of the firm entered the area claimed by the farmers, according to Renante Mantos, who has been speaking on behalf of the protesting farmers.

Mantos, who witnessed Monday’s violence, which broke out as he was trying to negotiate with the Lapanday guards’ leader, said two of the wounded farmers -- Jojo Robles and Rico Saladaga -- remain in “critical condition” at a hospital.

However, he told InterAksyon by phone, that “the families of the two called us saying they are very afraid because unknown men have been looking for the wounded farmers.”

The other injured farmers have been released from hospital and rejoined the protesters.

A statement from the Department of Agrarian Reform said Secretary Rafael Mariano has ordered the agency’s Region 11 and Davao del Norte office to immediately investigate Monday’s incident and coordinate with police authorities for the filing of charges against the guards involved in the shooting.

DAR said it has been meeting with the farmers, who belong to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc., on their installation on 145 hectares, which had been ordered by Davao del Norte Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator Jose Nilo Tillano on December 15, 2015.

It said Marinao himself met with the MARBAI farmers in October, when they erected a protest camp in front of the Lapanday gates, to assure them he was working on their peaceful installation on the property.

As of this posting, Mantos said, there were around 20 security guards in the area occupied by MARBAI “but many others have been sighted in the vicinity, all of them armed, mostly with shotguns.”

MARBAI members and their supporters entered the 145-hectare property on Friday.

Earlier, Mantos said a larger parcel of land had originally been awarded to the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Cooperative 1, or HEARCO, which signed a sales contract with Lapanday.

When the deal expired, a group of farmers who felt the deal was lopsided and against their interest broke away from HEARCO to form MARBAI.

HEARCO then ceded 145 hectares to MARBAI, which found a new buyer who offered to pay double Lapanday's price.

Although Lapanday sued for breach of contract, the DAR Adjudication Board ruled in favor of MARBAI in 2011.

That same year, said Mantos, as they were preparing to till the land, around 300 Lapanday guards and "goons" drove them away at gunpoint.

Mantos said they had been picketing in front of the Lapanday gate for the past seven months, but decided to try and retake the land after other farmers' groups arrived to join them on December 9.

Source: http://interaksyon.com/article/135193/dar-orders-probe-of-tagum-violence-as-tensions-persist-after-lapanday-guards-reenter-disputed-land