Armed men fire at Bukidnon farmers; 2 injured

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/4 Aug) — “The armed men formed a line, pointed their guns at us and fired.” This was how Erlinda Bacandon described how around 10 gunmen fired at a group of farmers who occupied a ranch owned by a prominent supporter of President Benigno Aquino III, in Maramag town, Bukidnon this morning.

Inset map courtesy of WikipediaTwo of the farmers were hurt and had to be rushed to a hospital in Maramag but Bacandon said many more farmers sustained bruises as they tried to run away from the withering fire from the armed men.

MindaNews was able to interview some of the farmers over mobile phone.

Bacandon said the gunmen were armed with M16 and M14 rifles, shotguns and pistols.

A staff member of a group supporting the farmers was able to take dramatic pictures of the gunmen as they fired at the farmers who lay flat on the ground.

“They just fired and fired their guns. Many of us tripped over the wired fences. We were terrified,” Bacandon narrated.

Mansueto Jocaris, a farmer, sustained a shotgun pellet wound on his arm and was rushed to a nearby hospital in Maramag town.

Also rushed to the hospital was Fe Panelo whose face was nearly crushed when one of the gunmen kicked her as she lay on the ground to cover.

Bacandon, who heads the Nakagawa Dulugon Farmers Association, said they have taken shelter at a covered court beside the barangay hall in Dulugon, Maramag.

“We are scared to go back. We have to look who among us are injured,” Bacandon said in a phone interview.

Efforts to get the side of the Montalvans failed. Text messages to Poling Lorenzo, reportedly the president of Montalvan ranch, went unanswered

Bacandon said around 100 members of the Nakagawa Dulugon Farmers Association occupied the 200-hectare ranch owned by the late Roberto Montalvan, one of the pioneers in Bukidnon province.

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Bacandon said the ranch was operated by Montalvan for the last 25 years under an Agro-Farm Lease Agreement but she said this had already expired.

She said hours after they occupied the ranch this morning, the gunmen arrived on a truck. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)