Brgy. Hermosa, Sumalo, Bataan— Jose Mercado, farmer, 50 and his family were forcibly evicted from his house by armed goons of James Litton from the affluent Forbes Park, yesterday at 10am. Today, his home is among the seven houses demolished by Litton’s armed goons. Mercado is one of the farmers identified as a potential agrarian reform beneficiary by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in the 214 hectare land being claimed by the Riverforest Development Corporation, owned by James Litton, et. al. Litton is claiming the 214 hectares as his own, which was initially subjected to a voluntary-offer-to-sell (VOS) by Litton in 1989. VOS is a scheme under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), in which the landowners voluntarily offer to sell their land to government for land distribution. Later on, Litton withdrew the VOS and filed for land use conversion.
The controversial landholding is being petitioned by the farmers of Sumalo for CARP coverage since the Littons violated all the Rules on Conversion, specifically the non-development of the land or conversion within the five year period as provided in RA 9700 or the CARP Extension with Reforms Law.
“They do not have a conversion order, conversion plan and worse they maliciously and willfully violated the Permanent Injunction Order issued by the Regional Trial Court of Bataan (Branch 5), which clearly stated that they can only construct fences around the property but instead fenced even the farmers’ lands and houses. Now they are demolishing houses and forcibly evicting farmers and their family.”, said Barangay Captain Rolando Martinez, an identified agrarian reform beneficiary.
Earlier this week, Jose Laysa landed in jail for harvesting three coconuts from his own farm. He was eventually released. The forced eviction of Sumalo’s farming families is the latest in a slew of harassments and intimidations by Litton’s armed goons and security guards.
“Naging protektor nila ang mga pulis kaya nabakuran nila ang aming mga taniman at ayaw nila kaming papasukin para maani ang aming mga tanim. Ang masama pa, sinusunog, sinisira at ninanakaw pa ng mga tauhan ni Litton ang aming dapat pagkakitaan. Ginigiba nila ang aming mga bahay at tinatakot pati ang mga bata sa pamamagitan ng lantarang pagbandera ng kanilang matatas na kalibreng baril.”, lamented Fe Andulan, president of Samahang Nagkaka-isang Mamamayan ng Brgy. Sumalo. (The police became the protector of [Litton]. This is why they were able to put fences on our lands and have prohibited us from entering our farms. The bad thing is, they are burning, destroying and stealing our crops, which are the source of our income. They are dismantling our houses and scaring our children by showing their high caliber guns in public.)
The Sumalo farmers are seeking the help of almost anyone from government, especially President Aquino, the Catholic Church, and civil society to intervene in their case. They have lost faith in the leadership of Sec. Gil delos Reyes of the Department of Agrarian Reform, who earlier refused to take action on the demands of farmers.
“Paano niya masasabing magandang taon ang 2012 para sa DAR, kung nawawalan ng lupa, bahay at kabuhayan ang mga magsasaka. Iba ang aming nararanasan sa sinsabi niyang accomplishment ng DAR. Kung di niya kami kayang protektahan, dapat sana ay umalis na lang siya sa pwesto!”, said Martinez. (How can he [delos Reyes] say that 2012 is a good year for DAR if farmers are losing their lands, homes and livelihoods. His rhetoric does not fit the reality that we experience on the ground. If he can’t protect the farmers, he should just resign from his post!)
The farmers of Sumalo remain resolute amid the harassments and violation of their rights. They will fight tooth and nail for the lands that they have been tilling all their lives.
Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA)
Secretariat: c/o Focus on the Global South, 19 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City 1100
Phone: (+63.2) 355.2758 | Email: [email protected]
Kap. Rolly Martinez, Brgy. Sumalo, +63.927.348.5108
Ka Elvira Baladad, PARAGOS-Pilipnas-SARA, +63.905.668.3780
Joann Fernandez, Katarungan-SARA,+63.915.377.1068
29 December 2012