The farmers were living peacefully, tilling the land to feed their families until two private companies began evicting them and claimed their land.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
PORAC, Pampanga – Hector Angeles, 58, is tilling some seven hectares of land in Hacienda Dolores. He grew fruit-bearing trees, vegetables and root crops. He also tended poultry, raising chickens, goats and pigs. His wife would sell their produce to the local market. The family income was enough to put food on the table and to send their four children to school. They were content until private corporations came to claim their land.
In the morning of June 27, Hector went to his farm in sitio (subvillage) Gubat. He was surprised to see his hut, the pigpen and the poultry house for the chickens and goats destroyed. Pieces of wood, two hammocks, a cooking ware and a jar were gone.
The next day, he, along with two Aeta farm workers, harvested kamoteng kahoy ( cassava) near the hut of his brother, Rodel. When they went to the hut to rest, they saw Edgar Manoloto and Willy Alvarado, local residents hired by LLL Holdings Inc., inside. The two men instructed them to take out their belongings because they would demolish the hut. Hector asked Manoloto and Alvarado why would they do so and the two replied that the LLL Holdings Inc. owns the land. A few minutes later, some 20 other men arrived and started destroying the hut. Hector tried to stop them but in vain. He then instructed his nephew to take a video of what was happening and the men grabbed the video camera. Two other men held Hector by his arms and another grabbed his neck. The men left after turning the hut into a mess.
After a few hours, three policemen came led by Deputy Allan Calaguas of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Porac. Without presenting any warrant of arrest, the policemen “invited” Hector and the two Aetas – Ramon Ugatan and Bernard Layug– to the police station. Upon arriving there, he was told that he is facing charges of illegal possession of firearms. The police presented the firearms that were recovered from the hut. Ugatan and Layug testified that they own the items and that they use them as tools to hunt wild pigs and wild chickens, but the police did not listen to them. Ugatan and Layug were freed and Hector was detained for five days until he posted bail amounting to P30,000 ($697).
On July 30, while in prison, a certain Manuel, who introduced himself as a resident of Pio village and a representative of lawyer Anselmo Carlos, the counsel of LLL Holdings Inc., came to see Hector. The man persuaded Hector to settle with the corporation: in exchange for his freedom, he must sign a statement giving up his claim to the land. Hector refused.
The complainants against Hector were five private individuals and not the LLL Holdings Inc. Hector said the five were unknown to him and that he learned that they are residents of Floridablanca, Pampanga.
Since he was released on bail, Hector has been prevented from going to his farm again. As early as November 2011, security personnel of LLL Holdings Inc. and F.L. Properties and Management Corporation set up outposts and put up “No Trespassing” signs around some 754 hectares of land. The two companies, in partnership with Ayala Land Inc., plans to build a ‘Nuvali’-like residential area. Nuvali is an upscale residential subdivision in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, south of Manila. More than 350 farmers and 1,000 families stand to lose their livelihood.
On November 4, 2011, a dozen farmers were arrested when they tried to stop some 60 security guards and a hundred hired men from fencing off some 200 hectares of land being tilled by hundreds of farmers.
At around 10 a.m., leaders of the local farmers group Aniban ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan sa Hacienda Dolores (Aniban) tried to negotiate with the security guards to stop putting up fences. Hundreds of their members sat on the posts set up earlier by the corporation’s personnel. The company’s security then called up the police for assistance. Some 15 to 20 policemen from PNP- Porac led by PSupt. Neil Olegario Miro came.
The LLL Holdings Inc. presented to the police a Resolution for Preliminary Injunction dated Sept. 28, 2011 issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (Darab). The resolution, signed by regional adjudicator Erasmo SP. Cruz restrains respondents (the farmers) from entering into the lands allegedly owned by the corporation.
After reading the order, Miro instructed his men to disperse those who stood in line. Twelve farmers were arrested, handcuffed and forced into PNP vehicles and brought to the PNP-Porac station. They were charged with grave threats. The policemen also confiscated some 50 pieces of bolo knives worth P500 ($11.57) each and cellphones.
Arrested were Ener A. Tolentino, Elmar I. Tolentino, Victor L. Tolentino, Marley I. Ignacio, Rogerto L. Padinio, Dzayb G. Escoto, Nicolas T. Pineda, Roel T. Tolentino, Oliver L. Pineda, Fernando L. Manquil, Roel S. Tolentino and Ronel L. Manoloto.
Curiously, the complainants were also five private individuals and not the LLL Holdings Inc. After four days since the arrest, the complainants signed an affidavit of desistance, prompting the release of the 12 farmers.
On August 12, 2012, acting on the petition filed by Aniban farmers, the Office of the Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator dismissed the preliminary injunction. In her decision, regional adjudicator Judita Montemayor Tungol took note of Aniban’s assertion that the LLL Holdings Inc. is a commercial company not engaged in agriculture, which exploited the agrarian reform law to eject farmers from the land. On July 23 this year, Tungol reaffirmed her decision and denied the joint motion for reconsideration filed by LLL Holdings Inc. and F.L. Properties and Management Corporation.
To this date, however, the two companies have neither dismantled their checkpoints nor withdrawn their security personnel from more than 1,000 hectares of land in Hacienda Dolores. Hundreds of farmers have been prevented from working in their farms, depriving them of their livelihood.
A fact-finding and solidarity mission organized by the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and other groups on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 documented 26 cases of destruction and divestment of properties involving 21 farmers, including five women farmers.
One of those affected is Virginia Ayson, 60, a widow and a mother to nine children. Virginia used to tend to three hectares of land planted to mangoes, guava, banana, papaya and other fruit-bearing trees. Since the security guards demolished her hut in July 2012, Virginia and her family were prevented from going to the farm. Eighty of her native chickens were gone. She has been losing an estimated P3,000 ($69.42) per week of earnings. To survive, Virginia now works as a laundrywoman.
Virginia’s brother, Ignacio Ignacio, 45, also lost 50 of his native chickens. Prevented from working on the farm, Ignacio works as a tricycle driver and earns P100 ($2.31) a day.
In the morning of October 31, Ignacio learned that his camote (sweet potato) crops worth P2,000 ($46.28) were uprooted by the security guards. He joined other members of Aniban, accompanied by the fact-finding mission, in an attempt to go to their farms. The team was prevented by security guards manning the outpost nearest to Manggahan, Purok 5.
Ignacio confronted the guards. “Tell Larry I’m here. Why did you destroy my camote crops?” Ignacio told the security guards in Filipino, referring to Larry Sancho, the head of the security group.
Later, the police came headed by Calaguas, the same police officer who arrested Hector on June 28. Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairman and Rafael Mariano, former Anakpawis representative and KMP chairman, explained to Calaguas that the preliminary injunction has been dismissed and thus, the farmers must be allowed to work on their farms.
Canlas and Mariano persuaded Calaguas to accompany the team in their inspection of the farms, to see the destruction and damage. Calaguas talked to the guards and asked for personnel from LLL Holdings Inc. who can speak to the team.
After about 30 minutes, lawyer Richard Tabago arrived. Tabago said he is in charge of the company’s social development projects. Canlas showed Tabago a copy of the Darab’s decision junking the preliminary injunction. Tabago asked for the original copy, saying any document can be manufactured. Canlas then asked Tabago to present the land titles and the deed of sale to prove that the LLL Holdings Inc. bought the land. Tabago called another employee, Rafael Cortez, an instrument man. Cortez showed copies of the title. Tabago asserted that the LLL Holdings Inc. is the owner of the land.
“Assuming you are the owner of the land, is it right that you just drive the farmers away?” Canlas told Tabago in Filipino. To this, the lawyer said, “There is a right to ownership… the right to enjoy includes the right to exclude. If someone comes and occupy your land, you can evict him.”
“The farmers did not go here. They have been here long before you came,” Canlas said. Mariano added, “Thirty years of occupancy can be considered proof of ownership.” Tabago replied it only applies to public alienable land and not to titled lands. Mariano said, “Without admitting, you came and saw that there are farmers, you just tell them ‘Even if your ancestors have been here for hundreds of years, you are not the owners of the land’? Is that so?” Tabago replied, “That’s how it really is!”
Mariano said, “You work for the company. But I ask you, is it just to evict the farmers even if their ancestors have been here for so long? You just evict them? Is that social justice?”
A farmer, Mario Santiago, confronted Tabago, “I was born here. My parents were farmers here. Now I am 57 years old and I was evicted from the land I had been working on. My huts, my farm animals are gone. My hut was destroyed. How about me? How about my family? They are now starving. That is our only issue here.”
Tabago said, “Atty. Carlos is handling this case, not me,” referring to lawyer Anselmo Carlos of the LLL Holdings Inc.