7 hurt as Lapanday security men fire at protesting farmers in Tagum

TAGUM CITY (MindaNews/12 December) – Seven people were injured when around 30 security personnel of the Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) reportedly fired at a group of protesting farmers and militant groups near the 145-hectare Cavendish banana plantation in Barangay Madaum here.

Injured were Taldan Miparanun, 16; Jose Balucos, 42; Emmanuel Buladaco, 46; Belardo Francisco, 53; Jojo Gomez, 26; Rico Talagaga; and Joseph Bertulfo, 58. Gomez and Talagala were in critical condition at the Tagum Regional Hospital.

Farmers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Incorporated (MARBAI) and the militant groups had encamped near the plantation since December 9. The move was part of the farmers’ campaign to reclaim the land that LFC turned into a plantation in the late 1980s.

In an interview Monday, Linda Dayahan, member of the board of MARBAI, told reporters that security guards barred the farmers and over 1,000 members of different support groups from Compostela Valley from entering their own land.

She said that upon learning that LFC workers were harvesting at least five hectares of banana they went to the site.

But she said the protesters scampered for safety when plantation guards carrying high-powered firearms greeted them with gunshots at around 7:30 a.m.

She recalled she could have died had she not jumped into the canal for cover.

MARBAI chair Melly S. Yu said they have been struggling over than six years just for their reinstatement as officials of the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HEARBCO) 1.

Yu and her group stood as officers and members of HEARBCO 1 before they were removed in 2010 and 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 comprised 157 members, and filed a petition for reinstatement and accounting of harvest against HEARBCO 1.

She complained that Lapanday which manages the plantation has been giving them a measly share of P2,000 a month instead of P15,000 supposedly due to deductions for the farm inputs provided by the company.

“For almost six years, pinagkaitan kami sa lupang aming sinasaka na binigay ng gobyerno (we’ve been deprived of our farm that was given to us by the government) through CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program),” she said.

She said many of the farmers could hardly survive and send their children to school with the share that they get from the company.

“Ayaw nila kami bigyan ng pagkakataon na mabuhay kahit makapag-aral ang mga anak namin kahit sa public school o makatungtung ng kolehiyo (They did not give us the chance to survive on our own or even send our children to a public school or to college),” she said.

“Ninakaw ng Lapanday, lahat-lahat na kababuyan ang ginawa sa amin ng magsasaka lalo na sa MARBAI na ayaw pumirma ng (Lapanday stole from us, they did all kinds of indignity to us farmers, especially the members of MARBAI who refused to sign the) onerous contract,” she added.

In a case brief from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the properties were part of the 1,323.9272 hectares previously owned by Hijo Plantation Inc. that were voluntarily offered for CARP coverage.

Yu said the DAR awarded them a certificate of land ownership in 1996.

On October 18, 1999, HEARBCO 1 entered into a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with Hijo Plantation for a period of 10 years at a price of $2.10 per box at 13 kilogram per box.

Thereafter, a Deed of Assignment of Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement was executed by and between Hijo Plantation, Inc. and Global Fruits Corporation.

But on the following day, October 19, a supplemental agreement was entered into by and between LFC and HEARBCO 1, amending the agreement executed between the coop, Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corp.

In a decision on December 15, 2015, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator of Davao Del Norte (PARAD) ordered the reinstatement of ousted HEARBCO 1 officials, and on March 17, 2016, issued a writ of execution.

But on April 12, 2016, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board 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 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 of the same year.

Last September 9, a conference took place 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. However, parties failed to execute the proposed deed of assignment as HEARBCO 1 manifested that the cooperative received a letter from 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,” the DAR case brief said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)