“Talk first to the people involved before judging.”
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Bernie Cruz made this statement in reaction to outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo’s intervention on behalf of 13 farmers who were reportedly arrested last week while staging a protest against the Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac.
Meanwhile, a lawyer of the protesters said they are mulling the filing of counter-charges against the police.
“The Vice President is misinformed,” Cruz said during a press conference.
Robredo earlier denounced the arrest of the protesters at the Hacienda Tinang, saying the farmers were just seeking genuine land reform.
In a statement, the Vice President said “some things are clear; the gathering was peaceful. The farmers had no other purpose but to provide a decent living for their families.”
But Cruz claimed that out of the 97 people apprehended, only 13 of them belonged to the Makisama Tinang, a group of beneficiaries of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
“We are just doing our job. And we will continue to help and do our duty to help our country,” Cruz asserted.
On the eve of the 34th anniversary of CARP, the Hacienda Tinang’s agrarian reform beneficiaries and their supporters, including five foreigners, staged a protest action and engaged in a “bungkalan” (cooperative planting) activity.
The Central Luzon police however, stepped in, arrested the protesters and filed charges of illegal assembly and malicious mischief for allegedly damaging crops worth P120,000.
Cruz appealed to 236 agrarian reform beneficiaries, including the 13 arrested, to “patiently wait for the validated report showing the official lists of those qualified to be installed at the 200-hectare Hacienda Tinang.
“To be exact, the dispute has lingered for 27 years, and we are nearing its resolution. Please let us not sow chaos and intrigues. You may approach us so we could talk,” he said.
“Hopefully, we will be releasing the official list and posting (the names) next week,” he added.
DAR has yet to validate the identification of the CARP beneficiaries on reports that some of the 236 beneficiaries have sold or abandoned their landholdings, or have already passed away.
On March 11, Cruz created Task Force Tinang-Tarlac through Special Order No. 91 to check the records, and validate the beneficiaries, farmers and occupants of the disputed farm lands. (RIO)
“Our clients are considering that (filing countersuit) as an option because there are so many violations that were committed,” lawyer Jobert Pahilga of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers told the ANC.
He claimed that those arrested did not undergo medical examination and were still interrogated by police despite a case already filed in court.
The so-called “Tinang 83”—the agrarian reform beneficiaries and peasant advocates—were released Sunday night after posting bail for their provisional liberty.
They were apprehended last week for allegedly destroying some sugarcane plants during a “bungkalan” or land cultivation activity in Hacienda Tinang.
But the farmers argued they are beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program and they are waiting for their official installation as legitimate recipients of the land this month.
“They are owners of the land since 1995. But as admitted by the representative of the cooperative, it was in the possession of the cooperative for almost 26 years,” Pahilga said.
The farmers filed a petition before the DAR in 2018 for their official installation to their land but the
cooperative in 2021 sought to nullify the agency’s decision, he added.
The arrest of “Tinang 83” led to a fund-raising drive to raise money for their bail.
They will face arraignment and pre-trial conference on Friday on charges of malicious mischief and illegal assembly.