At least three farmer-leaders were arrested in the town of Concepcion, Tarlac, during a protest action on the eve of the 34th anniversary of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program on Thursday, June 9.
Farmers, land reform advocates, and agrarian reform beneficiaries were trying to clear a two-hectare piece of land in the village of Tinang when they were arrested by the police.
A local Agrarian Reform department executive who arrived in the area reportedly left in the middle of the incident “without resolving the tension.”
“Kami ay mga lehitimong benepisaryo ng lupa. Ang gusto lang namin ay mahawan ang tubuhan para makapagtanim ng mga gulay na makakain ng mga pamilya namin,” said Felino Cunanan Jr., leader of the farmers’ organization, who was among those arrested.
“Kung hindi kami magtatanim, mamamatay kaming dilat sa gutom dahil sa napakamahal na presyo ng bilihin,” he added.
On Friday, June 10, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines called for the release of the farmers.
“Agrarian reform beneficiaries and advocates, and their activities to advance agrarian reform, should not be criminalized,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP chairperson.
“The use of bungkalan (collective farming) to help sustain daily food subsistence in order to survive is not a crime,” he said.
The farmers have been tilling the land in the past 27 years and are awaiting their official installation later this month as beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program.
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