MILITANT farmers’ group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) accused the governor of Negros Occidental desperately holding on to Hacienda Ilimnan of despite a government order placing the area under agrarian reform.
UMA secretary general Danilo Ramos said Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. is not only imposing the provincial government’s illegal and immoral claims over the 155-hectare agricultural area, but is resorting to state violence, utilizing the armed state forces to intimidate farm workers with threats of violent dispersal and imprisonment.
On May 2016, the Bureau of Legal Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform Central office issued a decision denying the application for exemption (from land reform) of the provincial government, which established the Negros First Ranch in the disputed hacienda.
On Thursday, the group received reports that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Provincial Public Safety Company, Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) and private security personnel were deployed to disperse farm workers.
“The initiative of the Hacienda Ilimnan Farm Workers Association to plant palay and other food crops within the area clearly sends the message that people are hungry, especially now that sugar workers are reeling from effects of drought and the annual tiempo muerto (off-milling season) in the sugar industry,” Ramos said.
He added, Marañon illegally acquired the area in 2010 to transform it into a sheep and cattle farm even if the property was already subjected to land reform in 2008.