4 farmers killed over land dispute

Ding Cervantes - The Philippine Star

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines – Four farmers, including three women, were killed while another was wounded in an attack believed linked to a land dispute in Laur, Nueva Ecija on Saturday.

The assailants, who were said to be members of the military, were allegedly trying to drive the victims away from a portion of Fort Magsaysay, which is being eyed for the relocation of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

The fatalities were identified as Gaudencio Bagalay, Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado and Eligio Barbado.

Angelita Milan was taken to a hospital in Cabanatuan City for treatment. 

Witnesses claimed the armed men were accompanied by individuals identified with a local official in Laur, according to Joseph Canlas, national chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. 

Canlas said the victims were members of the Samahang Alyansa ng mga Magsasakang Naninirahan sa 3,100 Ektarya.

Details of the shooting were not immediately available yesterday.

He said the victims have been tilling parts of the 3,100-hectare property of the Fort Magsaysay military reservation, which had been turned over to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for land reform coverage.

The area was initially designated as a relocation site for victims of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

He said after the volcano’s eruption, the Department of National Defense issued a deed of Transfer, turning the lands over to DAR.

“DAR never implemented the land reform and parts of the property are now being claimed by some military and local officials,” he said.

A response team composed of members of farmers’ groups – Tanggol Magsasaka, KARAPATAN Gitnang Luzon, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan sa Gitnang Luzon – were expected to conduct an ocular inspection at the crime scene yesterday.

NBP relocation plan scrapped

Meanwhile, the national government is abandoning a plan of the previous administration to build a P50.3-billion NBP facility in Fort Magsaysay due to the high cost of the move.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre revealed the scrapping of the project during a congressional hearing on Wednesday night.

Aguirre said the NBP is no longer transferring to Fort Magsaysay and would remain in Muntinlupa City.

“The buildings alone will cost at least P50 billion or more than $1 billion,” Aguirre told lawmakers.  – With Manny Galvez


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