Arrests continue, 5 farmers nabbed in Luisita

“What they are doing to us is inhumane. Where is justice?” – Jaime Quiambao, one of the arrested farmers of Hacienda Luisita

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Four farmers of Hacienda Luisita and a farm worker were arrested by elements of the Tarlac police at around 12 noon today April 3.

Arrested were George Gatus, Gerry Catalan, Jaime Quiambao, Alvin Gratil and Leoncio Suarez. They have been charged with violation of the implementation of the Republic Act 6657 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and are now detained at Camp Macabulos, headquarters of the Tarlac City police.

In a phone interview with Bulatlat.com, Quiambao said he and his four companions were resting near their farm lots in Mapalacsiao village when they saw more or less ten men placing markers on the land. Quiambo said that when they approached two of the men, they ran away and a few minutes after, policemen arrived.

“We just wanted to know what the men were doing on our farm lots,” Quiambao said in Filipino. “We were surprised when the police arrested us.”

Police superintendent Felix Bervo ordered the arrest.

The five were taken to the Tarlac City Regional Trial Court for inquest proceedings. Quiambao said Tristy Figueroa of the FF Cruz, a firm hired by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to place the markers on Hacienda Luisita land, filed the complaint against them.

“I asked her if she saw us destroying the markers as alleged by their men. She said she did not. Then I asked her why is she suing us for something we did not commit and she did not say a word,” Quiambao told Bulatlat.com. He added they refused to sign any document.

“We did not even manage to talk with those men. They acted as though they feared something. Why did they run away when we were just trying to talk them?”

Bulatlat.com file photo (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea)
Bulatlat.com file photo

Quiambao, 54, has been cultivating more than two hectares of land in Mapalacsiao village since 2005. A father of four, Quiambao, said farming is their only source of livelihood.

In its April 24, 2012 decision, the Supreme Court ordered the DAR to distribute all agricultural lands to farmworker-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita.

“What they are doing to us is inhumane,” Quiambao said. “Where is justice?

Quiambao said that Suarez, one of those arrested, was only a hired farmworker. “He was there to spray fertilizer on our mongo plants. He, too, was arrested.”

In a phone interview, Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla said she would seek a dialogue with Bervo regarding the incident.

“Why did they arrest the farmers? There is no due process any more. They are violating the human rights of the farmers,” Facunla said. “The police must be charged with illegal arrest.”

Ranmil Echanis, secretary of the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma), called up Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (Paro) chief Ileona Pangilinan at around 3:30 p.m. to report the incident. Pangilinan said she would send someone from their legal affairs to go to Camp Macabulos.

When Bulatlat.com reached Quiambao at around 6 p.m., he said not one from Paro visited them.

The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) has been calling on DAR and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop what they called as “landgrabbing spree” of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan. The two agencies have yet to act on their petitions and complaints.

On March 28, three other farmers were arrested in Cutcut village and were charged with physical injury. The three were released on Monday but their cases are yet to be resolved.

“They were the ones beaten up and yet they were the ones arrested and charged,” Facunla said. ()

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