Farmer leader says Robredo sided with the marginalized

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 August) – In what would be his first and last official visit to Bukidnon on March 12, 2011, Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo left a good impression on ordinary people he had encountered.

Yoyong Merida, chair of the Panaw Sumilao Multi-purpose Cooperative, said Robredo “was a leader who took the side of the marginalized sectors” and “a person our country needed for it to progress.”

“There are only a few good leaders in government, and now it gets fewer,” Merida said via SMS hours after reports came out that Robredo’s body was found at a depth of 180 feet some 800 meters off Masbate at 7:45am Tuesday.

He added that Robredo joined them in their walk and asked about their situation and also for updates on the case of slain farmer-leader Renato “Ka Rene” Peñas.

Merida was one of the Sumilao farmers, who hogged the headlines in 2007 when they marched from Sumilao town in Bukidnon to Manila to press their claim over a 144-hectare estate in their place under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Eventually, the farmers received a total of 147 hectares.

Aside from Panaw Sumilao MPC, representatives from the San Vicente Landless Farmers’ Association and the Mapadayonong Panaghi-usa sa mga Lumad Alang sa Damlag also met the secretary.

The farmers relayed to Robredo that they wanted the land awarded to them reclassified from  industrial to agricultural.

The land had been developed by San Miguel Corp. for a livestock venture.

Robredo met with Sumilao farmers after visiting the wake of PO3 Jomar Cahig, one of three police officers slain in an ambush by the New People’s Army in Barangay Mapayag, Malaybalay.

DILG provincial director Ronelo Alvarez said Robredo talked to Cahig’s family and handed some financial assistance.

Robredo’s body and those of the pilots–Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand– were found inside the plane’s fuselage.

Their ill-fated Piper Seneca plane crashed into the waters off Masbate Saturday afternoon. Senior Inspector June Paolo Abrazado, an aide of Robredo’s, was the only survivor of the crash.
(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)