114th Independence Day, Farmers cry for freedom from oppression
- Christine Emily Pantaleon (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2012 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - As the country celebrated 114 years of independence, farmers from Aloguinsan, Toledo and Pinamungajan yearns for the same freedom over the land they toil as they remain “landless, oppressed and impoverished.”

In a press conference held at the Farmers Development Center, Inc. (FARDEC), farmer representatives from the three towns said that even forty years after PD No. 27 was passed and twenty-five years since the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), they are still being exploited and oppressed.

The farmers also lamented the criminalization of agrarian cases as a way of discouraging them from asserting their rights over the land that they till.

Atty. Kim Grace Mendoza, FARDEC Legal Counsel questioned why agrarian is being associated with criminalization.

“What kind of independence a farmer can have if the land he tills is not his?,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said fifteen cases have been filed against Toledo and Aloguinsan farmers, several of whom are being charged with estafa and qualified theft for their alleged refusal to give their produce to the said landowners.

She also cited RA 9700 and said no government office, may it be the prosecutor’s office or judge, can entertain a case filed against the farmer and the landlord. Mendoza said that because it is agrarian, there is no reason to criminally charge a farmer.

Some criminal cases Toledo have already been forwarded to DAR.

In Aloguinsan, 39 farmers were charged with direct assault against persons in authority and resisting arrest in August 29 last year, when they prevented the fencing of 168 hectares of land.

“They were just being imprisoned without enough reason,” Mendoza said.

Cases in Aloguinsan included grave coercion, which is still pending in court; malicious mischief and frustrated homicide.

A farmer in Tuburan was charged with qualified theft which has been pending for more than ten years pending. The hearing of the said case is held in Toledo, causing so much hassle to the farmers’ side who, Mendoza said, should be farming and can’t even afford to pay for the fare.

Terencio Obtina, Chairperson of San Roque Farmers Association (SRFA) in Aloguinsan said they don’t fret in fighting for the land because it is public land and they are on the right track.

 “If there are no farmers, where will the people run to? What will the people in the Philippines eat if we don’t have lands left for farming, if all the lands will be used for buildings? Where will the farmers go since we all know that most of us are uneducated? Whatever our produce is, we immediately bring it to the market so people can have food to eat,” said Obtina. —(FREEMAN)

ALOGUINSAN CHAIRPERSON OF SAN ROQUE FARMERS ASSOCIATION COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM FARMERS FARMERS DEVELOPMENT CENTER IN ALOGUINSAN KIM GRACE MENDOZA LEGAL COUNSEL MENDOZA TERENCIO OBTINA TOLEDO AND ALOGUINSAN
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