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DAR-Negros Oriental: Farmers killed not CARP awardees

Judy Flores Partlow (The Freeman) - February 25, 2018 - 12:00am

Siaton shooting update

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — The Department of Agrarian Reform in Negros Oriental on Friday confirmed that the four farmers who were killed and a fifth one who was injured in the bloody attack Wednesday in Siaton, Negros Oriental were not awardees of the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Provincial agrarian reform officer (PARO) Louie Naranjo, also confirmed to the media that the site of the murders at Barangay Napacao in Siaton was covered by CARP and is one of the three landholdings of Don Gaspar Vicente.

Naranjo said that what the DAR has ascertained so far is that three of the victims, however, were included in the list of petitioners for inclusion, while the two others appeared to have relatives or namesakes who are CARP awardees in the other property owned by the Vicentes.

The DAR provincial chief, however, could not identify which one of the dead farmers were petitioners, saying he still has to review the documents on the petition for inclusion case. Whether the suspects were also among the petitioners has still to be determined, but initially DAR could not find their names in the database, he said..

Reports initially surfaced that the shooting incident happened between opposing petitioners on Wednesday morning. The victims and some other companions had allegedly harvested sugarcane that they did not plant.

Five security guards of the NICO Security Agency were arrested soon after the incident, with one of them, identified as Jason Ramos, being the son of Rustico Ramos, a long-time caretaker of the Vicentes' landholding and who lives in the estate's farmhouse in Napacao.

The older Ramos, 69 years old, is a CARP awardee, who said that his forefathers had tilled the lot there before he took over about 50 years ago as "encargado" or caretaker.

Still not certain whether the deaths of the farmers was an agrarian dispute or personal in nature, lawyer Naranjo nevertheless announced that DAR will "take the cudgels" and step in to find solutions to the problem because "the incident happened on a CARP-covered land."

Naranjo announced that the DAR regional office is expected to resolve the ongoing petition for inclusion case of the disputed Vicente property at the earliest time possible, perhaps by next week. He said he spoke to the legal office of the DAR-Region 7 in Cebu on Thursday regarding the case.

The original farm workers who have been awarded certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) under the CARP for having tilled the lands in question for years are now seeking assistance from the DAR and the PNP for additional security. The "newcomers" who are seeking inclusion as beneficiaries arrived there in 2016 and have erected nipa huts on the lands in question, they added.

There have been previous reports of threats and harassments which the police in Siaton had known but that had not apparently prevented the bloodshed that took place on Wednesday, they lamented.

Provincial police director Senior Superintendent Edwin Portento reassured that the police are ready to respond any time when needed but explained that it is impossible for them to put up a detachment inside a private property as it is against their mandate.

However, a Provincial Public Safety Company of the Negros Oriental Philippine National Police (PNP) is deployed at a detachment in Barangay Napacao, Portento added. (FREEMAN)

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