Farmers arrested at Hacienda Tinang ‘bungkalan’ want prosecutor axed

Farmers arrested at Hacienda Tinang �bungkalan� want prosecutor axed
One of the agrarian reform beneficiaries files a complaint against acting Tarlac prosecutor Mila Mae Montefalco before the Department of Justice seeking her dismissal from service over grave and serious misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

MANILA, Philippines — Some of the farmers arrested at a land cultivation activity in June at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac are asking the Department of Justice to fire the province’s acting prosecutor, accusing her of grave and serious misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In separate complaints filed Thursday before the DOJ, farmers said Mila Mae Montefalco, acting provincial prosecutor of Tarlac, conducted inquest proceedings “in an unreasonable, unfair, oppressive or discriminatory manner.”

“During the inquest proceedings, Prosecutor Montefalco asked questions to all those who were arrested in a manner which shows her bias against us. Her questions were intended not to elicit facts, but to incriminate us of whatever crimes we were charged,” they said.

They claimed that Montefalco had already concluded that they were guilty of the charges against them and even asked journalists covering the land cultivation activity why they did not prevent it from happening.

The farmers, who are land reform beneficiaries, conducted a land cultivation activity or “bungkalan” in June “to prevent the illegal sales, transfers, and conversion” of the land that they own. 

Police, however, arrested 83 farmers, artists and journalists for this and filed several complaints against them, including malicious mischief and illegal assembly charges.

Ultimately, Capas Municipal Trial Court junked the charges as it ruled it did not have any jurisdiction over what is ultimately an agrarian dispute, which the Department of Agrarian Reform has jurisdiction over.

This, the farmers who lodged a complaint against Montefalco said, should have been recognized by the prosecutor, but instead she supposedly stated that she was once a lawyer for the DAR, knew what a land dispute case was and refused to refer the case to the department.

“Her deliberate refusal to refer the cases to the DAR and to file information to the courts against us … betrays her gross and utter ignorance of the law and the Rules of Procedure or gross ignorance thereof, showing clear bias in favor of the complainants,” the farmers said.

They said that Montefalco’s refusal to refer the case to the DAR led to their three-day detention in cramped cells until they were released on bail.

The farmers also accused Montefalco of not providing their lawyer a copy of the police’s complaint, leaving them clueless as to what crimes they were being accused of.

“That all told, Prosecutor Montefalco failed in her function as prosecutor,” they said.

Pending investigation, the farmers are asking the DOJ to impose on Montefalco a preventive suspension on her without pay and benefits. — Xave Gregorio with a report from James Relativo

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