On the eve of the 34th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a total of 93 individuals, including farmers themselves and their supporters-advocates, were arrested by the police on Thursday, June 9 in Concepcion, Tarlac.
According to Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo, an artist collective advocating for genuine agrarian reform and rural development, around 20 uniformed men violently dispersed the farmers from Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA - Tinang) and their supporters while preparing a portion of Hacienda Tinang for Bungkalan, or collective farming.
Reports of policemen using excessive force, berating, red-tagging, and manhandling were also documented by those that were arrested.
“The mass arrest and harassment that farmers and advocates faced at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac … show the uselessness of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” said Cathy Estavillo, Secretary-General of peasant group Amihan.
History of farmers in Hacienda Tinang
Since 1995, some 236 members of MAKISAMA-Tinang were granted the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) of the more than 200 hectares of land under CARP, with the Department of Agrarian Reform upholding the issuance with finality in 2018 and 2019.
According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), in the latest dialogue between the farmers and DAR Central Office on June 7, the officials from the department promised them that they will be given the land before the month ends.
“Ang isang panukat kung tagumpay ba ang CARP ay kung naiangat ba mula sa kahirapan ang malawak na magsasaka sa bansa. Na ang malinaw na sagot ay hindi,” said Former Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao. “Ultimo ang deklaradong prinsipyo ng CARP na bibigyan daw ng pinakamataas na konsiderasyon ang mga magsasakang walang lupa, para sa hustisyang panlipunan, ay malinaw na pambubudol lamang.”
(One of the metrics whether CARP was a success or not is if it has made the lives of the farmers in the country better. The clear answer is no. Even the declared principle of CARP that it will give priority to farmers without land, for social justice, is farce.)
Calls for support and action
“Deprived farmers are faced with violent reprisal when they assert their rightful claim to land. This exposes CARP as instrumental to landlords while majority of our farmers remain landless, poor, and hungry,” said Estavillo in a statement.
As of press time, all of them are still in custody and processing their papers with their lawyers, who were initially held up at the gate of the local police station “awaiting the signal of the chief of police.”
According to one of the arrested, Ciarra Flores of Rural Women Advocates, they worry that, since it’s holiday in Tarlac today, the processing of their papers will be delayed until next week.
“Mapayapa kaming nagbubungkal kahapon, sinugod, tinakot at kinaladkad kami bigla ng mga armadong pulis. Wala po kaming masamang ginagawa … Maayos kaming nakikipag-usap sa kanila [Police], pero isa-isa kaming hinila! Hindi bawal na bungkalin ng mga magsasaka ang lupa naman nila,” she recounted in a Facebook post.
(We were peacefully tilling the land yesterday, then the police came rushing, threatened and dragged us. We were not doing anything bad … We were calmly talking to them, but they dragged us one-by-one! It’s not wrong for farmers to till the land that’s theirs in the first place.)
KMP is also calling on the elected leaders of Concepcion, Tarlac to take action.
“We call upon the incoming Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva to step in and stop this harassment against farmers and advocates,” they said. “We urge everyone to extend and gather all forms of assistance for the unlawfully detained.”
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.
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