Following the murder of a peasant-activist last Feb. 16 in Compostela Valley, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has ordered its regional office in Davao to resolve the land disputes in all highly-contested landholdings in the area to deter further attacks on farmers and give justice to the victims of exploitation and abuse.
Local farmers’ group put forth reports of two unidentified men riding a motorcycle shooting 45-year-old Edwin Catog while he was on his way to buy fish, marking the 2nd killing of peasants in 2017. Catog came from his house in Pantukan town when the riding-in-tandem stopped him along a highway intersection.
Mariano expressed his condolences to the family of the victim as he ordered the appropriate actions to prevent further injuries. Last Feb. 11, a farmer from President Roxas town in Capiz was also killed and four others were injured when gunmen fired gunshots at the group Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) holders due to a land dispute in an agrarian reform-covered land.
Catog was identified as a member of the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela and a supporter of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) in Tagum City.
Reports received by DAR reveal that colleague Hector Buscayno mentioned their involvement in the fight of the Tagum farmers as the probable motive for the killing. Catog joined the farmers’ campout protest late last year for two weeks to support the peasant struggle for land and justice, according to MARBAI President Mely Yu.
Furthermore, initial investigations show that Catog is not in possession of any prime properties and is not in conflict with other farmers. Both Buscayno and Catog were interrogated by alleged goons of agribusiness firm Lapanday Foods Corp. last Dec. 21 after they joined the picket inside the banana plantation.
Members of MARBAI have been staging a campout protest to reclaim the 145-hectare farm from Lapanday. Despite a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) issued by DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano last Dec. 16, the farmers’ encampment has been the subject of several attacks by the company’s security guards.
Almost 100 MARBAI farmers are currently protesting outside the plantation after they were forcibly evicted from their landholdings almost two months ago. They have joined forces with members of Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-B (HARBCO-B) and the Guhusnong Mag-uuma Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (GMARBAI) against the landgrabber-oligarch corporation.
In a dialogue in Davao City earlier this year, the agrarian reform chief warned Lapanday of contempt if the banana farmers of Tagum are not reinstated to their lands immediately. The Court of Appeals recently denied the application of Lapanday for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction on the CDO issued by Mariano.
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