2 more hurt in another shooting inside banana plantation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Dec) – Two protesters were hurt when security personnel of the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) allegedly shot at farmers around 8:40 a.m. on Wednesday in a banana plantation in Brgy. Madaum in Tagum City.

Reynante Mantos, chairman of Hukbong sa mga Maguuma sa Compostela (HUMAWAC), in a telephone interview, said the security personnel shot at the members of the support group of the protesting farmers while they were cutting the bananas early Wednesday.

Injured were Ronald Patindol and Randy Rana, but are now out of harm’s way, Mantos said.

He said that the security personnel approached the over 100 members of different support groups and told them to leave. However, they shot at the protesters when they insisted to say, according to Mantos.

Last Monday, seven were also hurt when a confrontation took place between the farmers and the company’s security personnel. Injured in that confrontation were Taldan Miparanun, 16; Jose Balucos, 42; Emmanuel Buladaco, 46; Belardo Francisco, 53; Jojo Gomez, 26; Rico Talagaga; and Joseph Bertulfo, 58. Gomez and Talagaga are in critical condition at the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City.

Banana farmers appealed to President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano to help the farmers reclaim the 145-hectare plantation in Brgy. Madaum here that was awarded to them in 1996 as agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In an interview, Linda Dayahan, a member of the board of directors of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI), complained that they need the intervention of the national government as they are not getting any support from the City Government of Tagum and the provincial office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“We did not steal the land. This was awarded to us by the government,” she said.

Dayahan said that the farmers attempted to reclaim the vast swath of land on Monday but it ended up in a bloody confrontation when the security personnel of the Lapanday Foods Corporation shot at them.

She said that they went inside the farm early Monday when they learned that LFC workers were harvesting at least five hectares but they scampered for safety when the guards carrying high-powered firearms greeted them with gunshots around 7:30 a.m.

MARBAI chair Melly S. Yu said they could barely survive with their measly share of their revenues from the plantation. She said Lapanday buys bananas for $3 a box that weighs about 13 kilos.

But she said that the farmers are only getting about P2,000 a month out of their P15,000 supposed monthly income due to the deductions imposed by the LFC for the farm inputs that it provides.

“We are deprived of farmland that was given to us by the government through CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program),” she said.

In a statement sent to the media, the Lapanday denied involvement in the shooting incident.

“Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) denies any involvement in the reported shooting of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City… Since last week, the company has been seeking police assistance to investigate the presence of armed men who were seen within the areas under the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HARBCO 1),” it said.

It added that HEARBCO 1 acknowledged its existing and valid contracts with LFC, which has been in conflict with a “breakaway group of its former members led by Mely Yu who has been engaging armed men to inflict violence and disrupt operations in the farm. Mely Yu and her group were ousted as officers of the majority of HEARBCO 1 in 2011 and since then, her group has caused severe damage to the cooperative.”

The company surmised the internal conflict may be the “reason for the latest incident.”

In a press release issued on December 9, Antonio Tuyak, spokesperson of the Unyon sa mga Mag-uumang Nagtikad para sa Tinuod nga Reformang Agraryo (UGMAD-TRA), said that around 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), peasant union members, and support groups confronted and drove off the armed security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) that attempted to quell the mass action.

“No amount of shots of guns from Lapanday’s armed goons can stop the peasants’ rage and resolve to reclaim the land,” he said. Tuyak added that they have shown to the public their right to use the land for their own benefit and has ended the six years of Lapanday’s “control of our land through an onerous, deceptive, exploitative and oppressive Agribusiness Ventures Agreement Scheme,” he said.

Yu and her group were officers and members of HEARBCO 1 before they were removed in 2010 and were replaced by a new set of officers.

In January 2011, Yu and her group were banned from entering the premises by the security guards of HEARBCO 1. They then formed MARBAI, which consisted of 157 members, and filed a petition for reinstatement and accounting of harvest against HEARBCO 1.

The Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator of Davao del Norte (PARAD) on December 15, 2015, ordered the reinstatement of the ousted HEARBCO 1 officials and on March 17, 2016, a Writ of Execution directed the full implementation of the decision.

But on April 12, 2016, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) informed the PARAD that the bigger portion of the of the area where the petitioners have to be reinstated were already under the occupation and management of LFC “by virtue of the existing compromise agreement dated April 9, 2011 between LFC and HEARBCO 1 entered into before RTC of Davao City Branch 14 as a result of the case filed by LFC against HEARBCO 1.”

On May 12, 2016, PARAD set aside the Writ of Execution issued on March 17.

Last September 9, a conference was held at the Tagum City Hall for “the purpose of discussing the proposed deed of assignment as well as for the purpose finally executing the same.”

But the parties failed to execute the proposed deed of assignment “as HEARBCO 1 manifested that the cooperative received a letter from Lapanday warning them that the conveyance of the SANID area in favor of MARBAI would be a violation of the terms and embodied in the Compromise Agreement contract entered into by HEARBCO 1 and LFC.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)