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MANILA, Philippines – Members of Tinang 83 faced policemen from Concepcion, Tarlac, in a clarificatory hearing on Tuesday, June 6, at the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City.
The hearing took place a few days before the commemoration of the mass arrest of Tinang 83 – the farmers, activists, and journalists dispersed during a land cultivation activity at Hacienda Tinang in central Luzon last year on June 9.
The Ombudsman conducted the proceeding to determine probable cause for the countercharges filed by Tinang 83 against more than 30 policemen, including then-Concepcion chief Lieutenant Colonel Reynaldo Macabitas. These countercharges include perjury, unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, physical and mental torture, among others.
“Walang dahilan para dahasin ng pulis Concepcion ang ARBs (Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries) at peasant advocates na kabilang sa Tinang 83,” said Ariel Casilao, acting chairperson of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Agricultural Workers).
(There was no reason for the police to violently disperse agrarian reform beneficiaries and peasant advocates.)
Casilao reiterated that the group was only peacefully exercising their rights by holding a cultivation activity meant to assert their right to the land.
Hacienda Tinang is one of the promised sugar lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) passed during the Cory Aquino administration. The hearing took place a few days before the 35th year since the land reform program’s enactment.
Many agrarian reform beneficiaries, farmers of Tinang 83 included, have been waiting for decades to be installed on the lands awarded to them.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Conrado Estrella III recently announced that over 450 titles covering over 200 hectares will finally be released.
This latest resolution of the DAR is testament to the legitimacy of farmers’ and supporters’ claim, said Casilao.
“Kung may nagdala man ng gulo sa Tinang noong bungkalan, ito ay ang kapulisan, hindi ang mga magsasaka at peasant advocate,” he added.
(If there was anyone who caused violence during the land cultivation at Tinang, it was the police, not the farmers and peasant advocates.)