DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The members of the House Committee on Human Rights ​probed on Tuesday the shooting ​of farmers ​by alleged banana plantation guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation.

The congressional inquiry was by virtue of House Resolution No. 634 authored by Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, with Makabayan lawmakers.

“There are overwhelming legal bases that the farmers of MARBAI (Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc.​) should already be cultivating their lands, if not only the violent barring of armed guards employed by Lapanday,” Casilao said.

Tuesday’s probe was attended by a score of farmer-victims from Tagum City and two armed guards of LFC from ACDISA agency. Also in attendance were Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Atty. Luis Pangulayan.

DAR officials presented before the House committee the legality of land distribution including the Cease-and-Desist Order issued by Mariano last December 2016 against the banana plantation company for its refusal to install the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Casilao recalled that early December last year, the armed guards of LFC assaulted the Marbai farmers as they were about to cultivate their land. The assault escalated into a shooting incident as armed guards shot and wounded seven farmers.

MARBAI farmers were former members of the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 ,who in 2010, formed Marbai in order to cultivate their own allotted lands separately from the agri-business venture agreement by Lapanday.

According to Casilao, DAR awarded 145 hectares of land for the Agrarian Reforms Beneficiaries. However, Lapanday opposed the distribution.  In December 2015, the Davao Del Norte provincial agrarian reform adjudicator reinstated the ARBs on their lands, but Lapanday strongly opposed such move.

Prior to December 9’s installation of farmers, a series of attacks instigated by the LFC armed guards had transpired. This led to a fact-finding mission which was conducted on Dec. 15 to 16 of which Casilao joined and later found out that “the local police failed to apprehend the perpetrators of the December 12 shooting and the local government officials to protect the victims.”

The shooting incident on December 12 was followed by another assault on December 31 when armed guards of Lapanday “hogtied farmers” evicting them from their farms. Some of the victims of the December 12 attack, still have slugs of 12-gauge shotgun shells inside their bodies.

“We reiterate the demands of the farmers to disarm the armed guards of Lapanday and holding them accountable for the atrocity, so as they could finally cultivate the lands awarded to them. In this case, the Lorenzo’s are the only camp opposing a fundamental reform that is being advanced by the Duterte government through Sec. Mariano,” Casilao pointed out. (davaotoday.com)

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