DAR orders prosecution of Tagum attackers

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news national 5 pix 1 dec. 14 2016TAGUM CITY, Dec. 14 – At least three people were wounded and several others, including women, were held hostage by alleged goons of the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC), the latest in a wave of terror attacks that hit the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) farmers’ encampment.

Agrarian reform chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano urged the local officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to coordinate with the Philippine National Police of Davao Del Norte to file cases against the suspects of the reported assaults.

Tagum Mayor Allan Rellon, through the chief of police, has already dispatched the city’s policemen to ease the tension in the area. He has also called for a meeting between the Lapanday and MARBAI for the speedy resolution of the conflict.
Officials of the DAR have been meeting with the MARBAI farmers for their installation to the 145-hectare banana plantation as ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in his December 15, 2015 decision, a pronouncement that has long been final and executory. 

In his visit last October, Sec. Mariano assured the farmers who were already in a camp-out at the gate of the LFC compound that the DAR would push for their peaceful installment into their landholdings. However, their safety and security were compromised due to the recent incidents.news national 5 pix 2 dec. 14 2016
Last Dec. 12, seven victims were injured after a gunfire attack by suspected guards of the LFC struck the farmers’ campsite. The DAR has then ordered the Regional Office of Region XI and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office of Davao Del Norte to probe the said attack.

MARBAI farmers have been staging a camp-in protest at the banana plantation after successfully reclaiming the land last Dec. 9, six years after the LFC ousted them out. They are farmer beneficiaries who were given a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Each of the 159 farmers owns a 0.79-hectare piece of the banana plantation. 

According to Mely Yu, president of MARBAI, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC who buys their products for export. They were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were poorly classified for a lower price, thus resulting to a measly Php2,000 monthly income, she added. The agreement has caused the farmer beneficiaries to accumulate a debt of almost Php1 billion to the LFC. 

MARBAI Finance Head Artemio Serot said that the farmers remain on high alert despite the release of those who were held captive earlier as threats to their lives and livelihood persist. Thousands of farmworkers and members of peasant organizations have joined the MARBAI farmers’ camp to support their fight for land ownership.