Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano ordered an investigation on the killing of four farmers and the wounding of several others within the military reservation camp Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija and a peasant leader in Isabela province recently.
Mariano, expressing grief as he extended his condolences to the victims’ families, directed Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Office Luis Meinrado Pangulayan to lead the fact-finding team and check if the twin incidents were agrarian related.
On September 3, farmers Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were shot dead while resting in a nipa hut in their farm in Laur. Initial investigation showed that prior to the incident, a helicopter was seen hovering on the area and allegedly dropped firearms to the awaiting gunmen who opened fire at the farmers.
The victims were from Barangay Bagting, Gabaldon town in Nueva Ecija who survived Typhoon Lando in 2015. They joined the land cultivation activity (bungkalan or collective farming) of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa which is part of the disputed 3,100 hectares inside Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation.
Angelita Milan was wounded and needed medical assistance while many others from the villages of Bagting, Calabasa and Ligaya suffered cuts and bruises.
Meanwhile, Ariel Diaz, head of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chapter Danggayan Dagiti Manalon, was killed by three unidentified men at his farm in Villa Pereda in Isabela on September 7.
Militant farmers’ alliance Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the killing and called on the Duterte government to put a stop to “politically motivated killings.”
“It is highly condemnable that farmers who defend their right to the lands are being killed,” said Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general.
In both incidents, the victims were active in resisting landgrabbing in their areas.