Four KMP farmers involved in land dispute in Bulacan arrested and falsely charged with drugs

Dear Friends,

Under the guise of the Duterte administration’s war against drugs, members of the Philippine National Police, along with several armed men wearing bonnets, arrested four farmers, and ransacked three houses in Purok 6, Sitio Karahumi, Brgy. San Isidro, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. The farmers were charged with trumped up cases based on alleged violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 91656). The farmers’ personal belongings were taken and their families were traumatized. They were wrongly accused as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and one of them was mauled. The four are members of the Karahumi Farmers Association (KFA), an organization that has long been resisting the landgrabbing of more than 1,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Bulacan. 
Please join us in calling for the immediate release of the detained farmers at San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Let us continue to call for the rescinding of Oplan Bayanihan, a counter-insurgency program which targets peoples struggling for genuine social change.
Let us condemn the continuing injustice against peasants, and the PNP’s use of the so-called war against drugs to infringe on the rights of the peasants and delegitimize their struggle for a genuine land reform policy. 


ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT

On October 6, 2016, at around 4:30 in the afternoon, armed policemen arrived at Purok 6, Sitio Karahume, Barangay San Isidro, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. The police forcibly entered three houses: 1) residence of Myla and Alfredo Ravelo; 2) residence of Rowena Reola; and 3) the residence of Segundina Gaitero.

The police pointed their guns at the household members and illegally searched the said houses.

Mayla and Alfredo Ravelo were held at gun point while the police asked them to produce the guns that they allegedly have been hiding. The police proceeded to arrest Alfredo and took him to their police vehicle. According to Mayla, one policeman cursed at them and tagged them as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), after seeing a flag of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in the house, pointing the gun at them. Their children, who witnessed the entire incident, were left traumatized. The police also took their bags and personal belongings.
Meanwhile, armed policemen and armed men wearing ski-masks also entered and searched the house of Rowena Reola. The police took their cellphones and money amounting to PhP100,000. The police threatened Rowena, after she asked the police for a search warrant, with the former saying she will be shot and killed if she doesn’t stop asking questions. The armed men handcuffed Rowel Reola, Rowena’s husband, and forced him inside the vehicle where he was mauled on the way to the police station. Rowel was hit with an armalite butt on his legs. Randy Sta. Maria and Lito Natural, Rowena’s neighbors, were also arrested. Rowena is also the daughter of Segundina Gaitero. 

Segundina Gaitero, a landed farmer and chairperson of the Karahumi Farmers Association (an affiliate of the KMP), was with Mel Grace Gaitero, Valentin Salceso, Blais Gaitero, and Charlotte Gaitero when her house was raided and searched by the police. Armed policemen and armed men wearing bonnets entered the gated compound of the Gaitero residence and started pointing guns at civilians inside the household. The armed men ordered Charlotte and her siblings to lie down on the ground, keep quiet and remain still. One policeman entered the room of Charlotte’s brother who was sleeping at that time. The police brandished and pointed their firearms at the residents of the house. Charlotte, daughter of Segundina, confronted the police after seeing them ransack their belongings and asked for a search warrant. The police showed a charge sheet against Segundina. After going through the rooms, the police forcibly took Segundina and Mel Grace Gaitero, dragging them to the police vehicle parked outside. They also arrested Blais Gaitero and Valentin Salceso. The police also took money from Segundina amounting to PhP1.4 million.

All men were ordered to get out of the houses and lie with their faces down on the muddied grounds. The women and children residents were also told to get out of their houses, while the police pointed their firearms at them. The police shouted at the residents to produce the guns they were supposedly hiding and repeatedly accused them of being NPA members. A gun was allegedly discovered in the house of Rowel Reola, who immediately denied knowledge and ownership of the said weapon. 

A blotter report on the incident was immediately filed with the barangay officials. 

The eight farmers – Rowel Reola, Alfredo Ravelo, Lito Natural, Segundina Gaitero, Mel Grace Gaitero, Valentin Salceso, and Blas Gaitero, Randy Sta. Maria - were brought to the San Jose del Monte Police Station. They were all arrested without warrants. Segundina, Mel Grace, Valentin, and Blas were later released without charges. Reola, Ravelo, Natural, and Sta. Maria remained in detention and were charged of violating Sec. 5, 11 and 12 of Article 2 of RA 9165. The operation was led by P/Insp. Marvin Miravalles, with arresting officers PO1 Mitch Leoven Bulatao and PO1Argel Torres.

According to the arresting policemen in their affidavits, they received an intelligence report that the drug peddling was rampant in Area 1 of Sitio Karahumi. They then conducted a buy-bust operation on October 6, with the police posing as buyers and bought shabu from a certain “Nonoy.” They examined the said drugs in their laboratory and confirmed that it was indeed shabu. At around 7:30pm on October 6, they conducted the said raid in Sitio Karahumi. 

Farmers Rowel Reola, Alfredo Ravelo, and Lito Natural, all members of KFA, and Randy Sta. Maria remained in detention and were charged of violating Sections 5, 11 and 12 of Article 2 of RA 9165. They are currently detained at the San Jose Del Monte (SJDM) Police station after the police planted 16 packets of transparent plastic containing methamphetamine and paraphernalia in their belongings. 

On October 19, at 10 p.m., another KFA member,  Romy “Nonoy” Gaitero was arrested by the police and was accused of drug peddling, a non-bailable offense under Sec. 6 of RA 9165. There were no warrants of arrest against Gaitero. 

The Karahumi Farmers Association (KFA) is an active affiliate of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB) and a member organization of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. The KFA and the residents in their village attest to the fact that the farmers detained are not drug peddlers/users, that they do not have posession of illegal drugs and that they are legitimate farmer-activists in the area. The KFA has been resisting the landgrabbing of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP, Central Bank of the Philippines) of more than 1,000 hectares of agricultural land in Bulacan for purposes of land banking and land speculation. AMB reports that the use of drug cases against farmers was brought by their insistent opposition to selling their lands to the BSP. The BSP has an impending deadline, already due on September 2016, to finish surveying the land. They were not able to complete this because of the resistance and campaigns of farmers and members of the KFA in the area.

In 1996, the disputed land was already up for distribution, with at least 59 farmers given their Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). The other farmer-beneficiaries however, despite paying real property taxes to the local government of San Jose Del Monte, were not able to receive their CLOAs. Certificate of Land Transfers (CLTs) and CLOAs were also subsequently cancelled due to exemption orders by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). 

From 1996 until now, farmers in SJDM have continued their campaign for land distribution in the area despite several incidents of demolitions and illegal maneuvers aimed at displacing the farmers; most recent is this incident where Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program of the Armed Forces Philippines and the PNP targetting peasants asserting their rights, was conducted in the guise of the war against drugs. 


Recommended actions: 

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate release of the four farmers detained based on trumped up charges in relation to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 91656); 
2. An immediate investigation on the PNP’s implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, in the guise of the war against drugs, to illegally arrest farmers involved in campaigns for genuine agrarian reform; 
3. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to investigate the withdrawal of CLTs and CLOAs already awarded to farmers, and intervene in the current dispute between the BSP and farmers claiming ownership to the land;
4. An end to landgrabbing, as well as to the continued harassment, killings, and other human rights violation that come with it; and
5. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that is a party and signatory

You may send your communications to:
 

H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/

Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Email: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net

Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph

Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline:  523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: communications@doj.gov.ph

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:


URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central, 
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org 
Website: www.karapatan.org

 

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