Melo Commission Report: Presentation of Witnesses/Resource Persons

Feb. 23, 2007

E. Task Force Mapalad: farmers beneficiaries in Negros Occidental

On November 27, 2006 in Bacolod City, the Commission conducted a probe of killings involving members of Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a group or organization of farmers-beneficiaries in Negros Occidental. TFM President Rodito Angeles presented several witnesses and documents relative to the killings and wounding of TFM members, who are beneficiaries of the agrarian reform programs and redistribution of landholdings in various parts of Negros Occidental. Some 250 TFM allied farmer-beneficiaries (FBs) attended the hearing and brought with them posters and pictures of family members who died in separate incidents. They claimed that landowners and their goons are responsible for the killings and there is lack of support from authorities to arrest suspects and expedite action on the cases they filed which are pending before the courts or prosecution offices.

Among those presented were witnesses on the murders of land reform beneficiaries Mario Domingo, Teresa Mameng, Wilfredo Cornea, Rico Adeva and Ronilo Vasquez. Testifying in the Ilonggo dialect, Jinifer Tinero stated that on May 17, 2006, armed followers of former landowner Farley Gustilo in Hacienda Cambuktot, La Castellana, killed Mario Domingo who was installed as farmer beneficiary. The case for murder is pending before the Provincial Prosecution Office of Negros Occidental.

Nenita Adeva told the Commission that on April 15, 2006 at around 4:30 p.m., while she and her husband, Rico Adeva, a TFM organizer, were on their way home to Hacienda de Fuego II, Barangay Bagtic, Silay City, three (3) suspects, namely, Ronald Europa, a certain Boy Negro and an unidentified man, members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), shot her husband, Rico Adeva, ten (10) times, hitting him on his body and head. She said that Rico was shot in her presence as she begged for his life. She filed a complaint for murder before the Office of the City Prosecution Office of Silay City.

Lolita Pederiso claimed that on September 3, 2004, security guards of landowner Mario Villanueva led by Juanito Suriaga, destroyed the fence that separated the farmers-beneficiaries in the twenty-one (21) hectares awarded to them under the CARP Law from Villanuevas land. Suddenly, the guards started strafing their houses and the farmers scampered for safety. Early next morning, the body of Teresa Mameng, a leader of the agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Conchita, Villanueva, Barangay Sag-ang, La Castellana, was discovered at the cornfield near her house. The murder case filed against Suriaga is pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La Carlota City.

Nenita Cornea testified that on June 26, 2006 at around 8 p.m., her husband, Wilfredo Cornea, was killed by two (2) goons wearing masks in Hacienda Mulawin-Lanatan in Barangay Poblacion, Sagay City. One of the suspects was identified as Amador Villa and farm land administrator Joseph Lacson was linked to the killing. A complaint for murder against Lacson and Villa was filed before the City Prosecution Office of Sagay City

Leticia Vasquez told the Commission that on February 12, 2001, eight (8) armed goons of Gustilo opened fire at TFM ARBs who were harvesting crops in the twenty-three (23) hectares which they had occupied and cultivated and killed Ronilo Vasquez and wounded three (3) others. A case for Homicide is pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La Carlota City.

The other cases presented to the Commission included the following, viz: a) shooting on December 7, 2002 of Jimmy Mameng and Jonathan Pronete, both of Hacienda Conchita Villanueva, La Castellana. A case for frustrated homicide is pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La Carlota City; b) wounding of Ronito Boltron on January 5, 2004 in Hacienda Mulawin-Lanatan, Sagay City. A case for frustrated murder is pending before Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Sagay City; and c) shooting of Edgardo Cauntoy on December 29, 2004 in Hacienda Nelia-Minakalaw in Barangay Rizal and Lopez Jaena by security guards of landowners. Cases for attempted and frustrated murder are pending before the Office of the City Prosecution of Sagay City.

Chairman Melo explained that the Commission is focusing its attention on agrarian-related killings because it is within its mandate to look into any case of violence involving media people, militants and activists and to fast-track the investigation of thereof. Since the victims in these cases are farmer activists, they are within the scope of the Commissions mandate.

The members of the Commission, impressed by the courage and will to seek justice of the farmer-beneficiaries, who are not in any way anti-government, assured them that the Commission will bring their concerns before the appropriate government agencies for the speedy resolution of their cases. For his part, Chief State Prosecutor Zuno, directed the Provincial and City Prosecutors of Negros Occidental to hasten the resolution of the cases involving farmer-beneficiaries.

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