Hacienda Velez-Malaga Tragedy
Volume 21 Number 2 & 3
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 17:01

by Salome de Ocampo

On June 4, barely two months after they were installed, two farmers were killed and six others were wounded at Hacienda Velez-Malaga in Barangay Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.  Security guards of former landowner Roberto Cuenca shot the victims who were among some 100 farmers beneficiaries who tried to cultivate the land awarded to them.

Killed on their very own land were Alejandro Garcesa, 70, and Ely Tupas 52, both holders of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA).  Wounded were Jude Capitania, 32, Jobert Malayas, 25, Rene Florendia, 27, Alan Hagocoy, 26, Norberto Diamante, 47, and Andre Barcoma, 17. Prior to this incident, three farmers have already died from agrarian violence in Hacienda Velez-Malaga. Among them was Pepito Santillan Sr., 59, who was killed last January 25, by suspected followers of former landowner Roberto Cuenca.

As expected, government forces are laying the blame and responsibility on others, except themselves, for the killing spree.  But how could any government entity - be it local government unit, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the military, the police, the national government - wash clean their hands for the killing?  Cuenca’s propensity for violence is a well-known fact.  Aside from actual cases of killing, there have already been earlier attempts to kill more farmers in the course of their land struggle in big haciendas.  DAR itself has openly expressed its fear that violence would erupt if they implement the law in Hacienda Velez-Malaga.  Every body knows Cuenca is maintaining a private army posing as “security guards” who are ready to follow every single command from their master.   Yet the government has not lifted a finger to dismantle Cuenca’s private army nor make Cuenca accountable for earlier killings and harassment of unarmed peasantry.

What is happening in Hacienda Velez-Malaga is only a microcosm of what has been taking place in several other conflict areas of agrarian reform. The recent event - the violence that broke out in Hacienda Velez-Malaga that led to the death of three farmer beneficiaries and injury to six others, as in many others cases in the past, can be blamed on the ineptness of the DAR, especially its Secretary, Nasser Pangandaman.

How many more farmers should die before they obtain genuine land reform?  One based on law without any bloodshed? Now is the time to act. Regardless of who committed the crime against the farmer-claimants, the government should justly and speedily bring justice to them and their families.  There must be neither buts nor ifs.  Land to the landless now.

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Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2010 11:43

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