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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bukidnon farmers condemn harassment by Fortich Farm guards

An organization of CARP farmer-beneficiaries condemned the harassment perpetuated by six heavily-armed guards to a team of agrarian reform implementers tasked to conduct ocular inspection and valuation of a 331-hectare estate in Bukidnon on November 8.

Members of the Fortich Farm Landless Farmers Beneficiaries Association (FFLFBA), Northern Bukidnon Agrarian Reform Officer Julio Celestiano and his staff together with Land Bank of the Philippines representatives were barred by the armed guards from entering the Fortich Farm in Valencia City, Bukidnon on November 8, 2011.

Rosendo Emat, chair of the FFLFBA said the guards told the team “to enter at their own risk.”

“The guards warned PARO Celestiano not to enter the premises of the farm otherwise they will shoot them,” said Emat.

In a report obtained by TFM, Celestiano told DAR Regional 10 Director Felix Aguhob that: “As the conversation ensued, one guard commented that they are upon orders that if anybody enters the property, they will be shot.”

Fortich Farm, owned by the family of former governor Carlos O. Fortich, is covered by the government’s agrarian reform program since 2005 under compulsory acquisition. But recently the landowners are negotiating for voluntary offer to sell.

On August 18, 2011, the DAR-LBP team’s first ocular inspection (OCI) did not prosper because landowners were reportedly not around. Another attempt to conduct the OCI was on September 15 but the team did not enter the farm located in Barangay San Carlos because of the “landowners negotiation for VOS.”

Emat and his organization is putting the blame on PARO Julio Celestiano, Jr. for the successive failures of the OCI.

“We condemn the harassment but we are now calling for his removal from office because of his failure to coordinate with the police as ordered by his superiors in the execution of the ocular inspection on Fortich estate,” said Emat.

“Had Mr. Celestiano’s team was accompanied by the PNP, they could have entered the premises and proceed with the survey,” said Emat.

Emat said Celestiano may have already known that the landowners are obviously employing delaying tactics which is delaying the implementation of the agrarian reform program.

“It seems that he is also part of the grand plan to bar us from owning the land,” said Emat, one of the more than 100 farmers who are been fighting to own a piece of the large estate for the last seven years.

“We are calling on DAR Secretary delos Reyes to replace him as he is a hindrance to CARP implementation in Bukidnon,” said Emat. Lani Factor, Task Force Mapalad

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