Four farmers in Fort Magsaysay massacred, two injured

Dear Friends, 

 

Please join us in calling for an immediate and independent investigation on the massacre of farmers in Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija on September 3, 2016. As part of the landgrabbing scheme of landlords, supported by the military, police and local government, the massacre claimed the lives of four farmers and endangered 60 more peasants who were cultivating part of the 3,100 hectare-land that was already up for distribution since 1991.

 

Let us all call for justice for all the farmers, those who fell victims to state violence and private interests, in defense of their land and demand for the immediate arrest, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators.

 

ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT

 

On September 3, 2016, four farmers were killed when armed personnel of a certain Colonel Rigor, officer of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) – Philippine National Police (PNP) in Nueva Ecija, open fired at around 60 farmers who were then cultivating their fields.  The farmers were members of Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa sa 3,100 (ALMANA 3,100), an organization of farmer-beneificaries of the 3,100-hectare land which was already mandated for distribution since 1991.

 

At 10am, sixty (60) members of ALMANA 3,100 entered Lot 28 of Sitio Minalkot, Brgy. San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija. Lot 28 is part of the 3,100 hectares for distribution. The farmers started building huts, while others were preparing land for planting. By12 noon, while members of ALMANA were having lunch, they spotted a helicopter hovering low enough to drop off two armed men – one in camouflage and the other wearing a bonnet. The armed men entered the hut of a certain Colonel Rigor, which was around 50meters away from the lot where the farmers were located.

 

At around 2pm, several armed men assembled into two groups and positioned themselves in opposite directions. They then fired at the farmers for thirty (30) minutes. Eligio Barbado, 55, was fixing his roof when he was shot.  He attempted to run but bullets hit him; Barbado was the first casualty of the shooting. The rest of the farmers scrambled to hide themselves in grassy areas and inside huts. Most were huddled together in a bunkhouse. When the shooting ended, the organization started accounting for all their members. Angelita Milan, 55, and a 17 year-old boy who was with his 5 year-old sibling, were found injured. Milan was immediately sent to a hospital in Cabanatuan City while the 17 year-old had his wounds treated. 

 

Three officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Palayan arrived at the scene by 3pm, along with two soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army.  The policemen and soldiers did not bother to investigate the area however, citing that it was the jurisdiction of PNP Laur. Men from ALMANA 3,100 pushed through with the search of the area for three farmers who were missing. Gaudencio Bagalay, 58, Emerenciana Mercado Dela Rosa, 53, and Violeta Mercado De Leon, 55, were later found lifeless in an old hut, grouped together under a wooden bed. The farmers who found them decided to wait on the authorities before retrieving the bodies.

 

PNP Laur and its Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) arrived at 5pm. However, the bodies of Bagalay, De Leon and Dela Rosa were recovered only around 12am-1am due to difficulties in terrain and the uncooperative weather. It was only when the bodies were retrieved when the farmers saw the injuries, indicating the brutality endured by the farmers to their death. Bagalay sustained 21 gunshots, while De Leon and Dela Rosa also had multiple gunshot wounds. Dela Rosa’s corpse was severely mangled, with her arm almost detached from her body.  Their remains were immediately brought to the funeral parlor.  Given the state of their corpses, Dela Rosa and Bagalay were immediately buried on September 6, 2016.

 

Members of ALMANA 3,100 insisted to the police to investigate the hut owned by Colonel Rigor, asserting that perpetrators are still within the area; the farmers’ pleas were met with seemingly deliberate indifference and inaction. The killers were recognized by the ALMANA 3100 members as the same ones who shot at them during their cultivation acitivity last January 2015. The same killers are known to be affiliated with Palayan City Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas of the Joson political clan of Nueva Ecija, and a certain Colonel Rigor of the Nueva Ecija CIDG.

 

 

BACKGROUND OF THE INCIDENT

 

The 3,100-hectare land in Laur, Nueva Ecija was awarded to over thousand landless peasants, as well as Mt. Pinatubo victims, in 1991. It is within the scope of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR). The land is under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP); the  Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) and farmers already have their Certificates of  Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs). This land, however, is part of the camp 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

 

The military has yet to give the lands to farmer–beneficiaries, despite the CLOAs granted to the farmers, due to inaction from concerned government agencies and blatant landgrabbing from political clans. Despite a Deed of Transfer signed by then Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Renato De Villa and Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung  to give way for the land distribution, no measures to implement the grants and/or orders were done. Instead, military officials and politicians in Nueva Ecija have blatantly claimed the land as private property. This resulted to harassment against farmers, and have been the site of numerous human rights violations against peasants, including the killing of Pascual Guevarra, the first peasant leader killed during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

 

Recommended actions:

 

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1.       The immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body;

2.       To prosecute and arrest the killers, masterminds of the massacre together with the landgrabber-politicians involved in the incident and the land dispute;

3.       The immediate distribution of the 3,100 hectare-land in Laur, Nueva Ecija to farmer-beneficiaries;

4.       The Department of National Defense (DND) to abide by the deed of transfer and call on military officials assigned in Fort Magsaysay to respect previously signed orders and agreements;

5.       The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to immediately investigate Colonel Rigor and Mayor Adrienne Cuevas, and hold them accountable for the series of harassment and killings done against peasants;

6.       An end to landgrabbing, as well as to the continued harassment, killings, and other human rights violations that come with it; and

7.       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:

 

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.phwebmaster@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.orgkarapatan@karapatan.org

Website: www.karapatan.org

 

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