DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Updated 11:30 PM) — At least seven were wounded on Monday morning after security personnel of banana magnate Lapanday Food Corporation went on a shooting spree against members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc., (Marbai) and the Unyon Sa Mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo.
Lapanday denied it ordered the attack against the farmers.
Wounded were Jose Balucos, 42, Emanuel Buladaco, 46, Talban Miparanun, 16, and some members of Panalipdan Youth and Hugpong sa Mag-uuma sa Pantukan, namely: Belardo Francisco, Jojo Gomez, and two others named as Rico and Bobong.
All the victims were rushed to Davao Regional Hospital in Apokon, Tagum City.
In a text message sent to DavaoToday, Marbai spokesperson Antonio Tuyak said as early as 7:20 am Monday, armed men believed to be members of the security of the banana plantation entered the compound and began shooting the farmers.
Asserting their rights as government-recognized beneficiaries and owners, Marbai and the Unyon farmers occupied last week a 145-hectare agricultural land being claimed by Lapanday for the last six years.
Lapanday, however, said in a press statement that it “denies any involvement in the reported shooting of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City this morning.”
Lapanday said it sought police assistance “to investigate the presence of armed men who were seen within the areas under Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO1),” the same location where Marbai farmers were staying.
During the protest action last Friday, members of Marbai took off their shirts to prove that they were unarmed and no armed men joined in their ranks.
LFC blamed the recent incident to the conflict between Marbai and the HEARBCO1 cooperative. Marbai broke away from HEARBCO1 as the latter continued to deal with Lapanday under onerous agreements on support and financing.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao , in a statement said that, “for decades, the ARBs were trapped with the inequitable arrangement that incurred them of about P1 million debt to Lapanday.”
“Naturally, the ARBs petitioned to DAR for individual distribution that it ordered on June 21, 2010, which Lapanday challenged until a Davao City Regional Trial Court decided in favor of the agricultural workers and farmers in April 2011,” he said.
Casilao claimed that there are “overwhelming moral and legal basis” for the farmers to take back their lands.
Pedro Arnado, spokersperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao said the incident is “a glaring proof of a company’s greed and fascism being tolerated by the government for so long.”
KMP-SMR denounced the incident and said it was an “attempted massacre against the agrarian reform beneficiaries, farmers of Madaum, and supporters during a camp-in protest.”
“This land dispute is a classic example of what Pres. Duterte refers to as Feudalism,” Arnado said. “We hope that he understands very well that agrarian reform remains myth so long as landlords continously grabbed the lands of nameless farmers.”
Arnado asked: “If the farmers will not fight for their rights to survive what assurance can they get from this landlord-dominated government?” (davaotoday.com)