2 Norwegians say company guards harassed them in Opol

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/13 October)–Two Norwegians were reportedly harassed by armed guards of A. Brown’s oil palm plantation in Barangay Tingalan, Opol, Misamis Oriental, 8:45am today, their host family said.

Ingrid Homeldahl, 19, and Guro Klausen, 22, together with three local counterparts from Youth organization of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (YIFI) were working in the farm of Amadeo Paila, as part of their exposure program when five security guards allegedly accosted the group.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Consolacion Paila, the host family of the program said “the guards shouted the words ‘private property, why are you here?’ as they surrounded the group.

“Two of the guards were armed with high-powered rifles, the other two were not wearing uniforms and one who gruffly introduced himself as the supervisor harassed our visitors,” said Paila.

She said the men introduced themselves as security guards of A. Brown Company which operates an oil palm plantation in the area.

She added that as the youngsters walked back home after the confrontation they noticed that two suspicious motorcycle-riding men were tailing them.

“We wanted to file an incident report (blotter) but we were told by the host family that there were no people at the barangay hall because it was a Thursday. Usually the barangay hall is only open during Saturdays and Sundays, our host family advised us,” Klausen said.

Instead, they filed the incident report in Bagocboc, an adjacent barangay, of the same town.

However, a source at the company vehemently denied the allegations.

In a phone call Thursday afternoon, an officer of A. Brown, who requested anonymity claiming he has received death threats from a group closely associated with the Lumad group in the area, said the allegations were blown out of proportion.

“The report was not true. It was grossly exaggerated. The guards had a cordial talk with them even though they entered inside the plantation area without permission,” said the source.

Homeldahl and Klausen are in the country for the Communication for Change program of the IFI with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Both are members of the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Fredskorpset-Youth.

The CFC exposure program aims to educate young people from the North and South to be “agents of change in their respective local contexts and to struggle against injustices wrought by globalization”.

The South leg of this program, which is a joint undertaking between the NCCP, NCA and Fredskorpset-Youth, runs from Sept. 17 December 12, 2011. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)