Rep. Mariano seeks probe of alleged attack on Musuan farmers

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews) – Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano has filed a resolution asking the House of Representatives to investigate the Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon for the dispersal of farmers that had camped out near the university’s main gate to protest their impending eviction from CMU’s farmlands.

CMU security guards reportedly attacked the farmers last June 14 in a bid to stop the protest that started late last month.

Farmers belonging to the Buffalo Tamaraw Limus (BTL) Association are seeking another extension of their lease on about 400 hectares of CMU-owned lands and relocation at the end of the contract.

They also offered to pay P4,000 per hectare per year for the proposed 4-year extension, but the school administration was not keen on heeding their demand.

CMU offered a P1 lease per hectare per year but only for three years and without a relocation site.

The standoff led to the farmers’ Kampuhan or protest at the main gate of the university since May 23, which was cut short by the alleged attack by CMU guards on June 14 to demolish the tents put up by the protesters.

The incident left six protesters hurt allegedly by shots coming from the guards three of whom were detained by the Maramag police but released a day later due to an affidavit which even the farmers themselves admitted was faulty.

In a press conference on June 22 in Valencia City, Mariano said he was supporting the farmers’ proposal to extend the lease.

He said he will lead the opposition if BTL farmers would be evicted without relocation. CMU and BTL officials, he added, must talk and discuss “mutual terms and conditions.”

Mariano said he was aware about the budget cut on state colleges and universities but that the livelihood and relocation of about 800 families should not be compromised in the name of quality education.

Mariano, however, clarified his party will support CMU’s quest for quality education.

He added that some members of the police and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit would also be included in the investigation for their alleged human rights violations against BTL farmers.

Jose Benemerito Jr., BTL spokesman claimed they were victims of human rights violations and continue to be so.

He added that they are considering filing charges against CMU officials, who he said “must be accountable” for the alleged attack.

But Benemerito said they will spare the guards from the complaint as they were only following orders.

CMU president Ma. Luisa Soliven told MindaNews last week there was no order to shoot or attack the protesters. But she admitted there was an order to dismantle the tents on the ground that the protesters’ permit to rally had already expired.

She went to Manila last week to attend a meeting of the CMU board of regents. She said she would recommend for the eviction of the farmers during the meeting but she has yet to announce the outcome.

The farmers suspended their protest over the weekend. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)