farmers in the Philippines

83 face malicious mischief, illegal assembly complaints over Tarlac farming activity

Jairo Bolledo
83 face malicious mischief, illegal assembly complaints over Tarlac farming activity

ARRESTED. On the 34th year anniversary of the Comprehensive Land Reform Program (CARP), farmers groups and advocates stage a protest rally at the Department of Agrarian Reform headquarters in Quezon City on June 10, 2022, to condemn the arrest and demand the release of 92 farmers arrested in Tarlac on June 9. The Makisama-Tinang are the rightful holders of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) issued to them in 1995 under the CARP. The farmers were arrested when they started to prepare the land for vegetable planting.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Groups are calling for donations to raise the P3.23-million bail needed to secure their temporary liberty

MANILA, Philippines – Of the more than 90 people who were arrested following their participation in a June 9 cultivation activity in Tarlac, 12 have been released, while the rest faced malicious mischief and illegal assembly complaints, their lawyer said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said that over 90 people – including farmers who are agrarian reform beneficiaries, land reform advocates, artists, and journalists – were arrested in Barangay Tinang, Concepcion town in Tarlac on June 9.

NUPL lawyer Jobert Pahilga said in a phone interview with Rappler on Saturday, June 11, that eight of those arrested were released on June 10 because the prosecutors could not establish probable cause to file complaints against them. Five of them are foreigners, while the other three are artists.

“‘Yung mga foreigners, kararating lang ng Pilipinas, sumama lang sila doon. May research team na pumunta, sumama lang sila doon…. ’Di naman sila nakialam doon,” Pahilga explained. 

(The foreigners, they just arrived in the Philippines, and they just went with them there. There’s a research team that went to the area, and they just joined them. They were not involved there.) 

The lawyer said four others – all minors – were released on June 9.

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Police arrest over 90 farmers, land reform advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac

Police arrest over 90 farmers, land reform advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac

The remaining 83 remained under police custody, as of June 11.

According to Pahilga, the Tinang SN Multipurpose Cooperative Incorporated filed the malicious mischief complaints against the 83. They were also accused of illegal assembly as they allegedly assembled to commit a crime, said Pahilga. 

“‘Yong illegal assembly, sinasabi ng piskal, ang purpose ng gathering ng mga artists at journalists ay to commit a crime. [That] they are armed (The illegal assembly, which the fiscal mentioned, they said the purpose of the gathering of artists and journalists was to commit a crime).” 

Pahilga said the NUPL was not initially informed that the 83 would also face illegal assembly complaints. “In fact, during inquest proceedings, we were asking for the copy of the complaint. Hindi namin alam na may illegal assembly na kasama (We did not know that illegal assembly was included),” he said.

In separate statements, Anakpawis, Amihan, and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura already explained that the farmers and land reform advocates were present in the event just to cultivate land. 

The NUPL lawyer said they are currently processing the bail of the 83, set at P36,000 each for illegal assembly and P3,000 each for malicious mischief or P39,000 bail per arrested individual. A total of P3.23 million is needed to bail out all 83. 

Journalists arrested

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said of the 83, 11 are journalists who were still arrested even after they identified themselves as members of the media. Two are working in the media industry – Manila Bulletin and NUJP-Metro Manila, while the other nine are campus journalists from Baguio, Pampanga, and Tarlac. 

Both NUPL and NUJP are raising funds for bail. The student councils of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman, the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), and the Ateneo de Manila University also called for donations. 

According to the UP Diliman University Student Council, three CSSP majors are among the 83.

The Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, meanwhile, said an alumni who was part of an environmental research team based in Tinang is among those arrested.

Robredo urges ‘speedy, just resolution’

Outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo joined calls for a speedy and just resolution of the incident. 

Umaasa kaming igagalang ang kanilang karapatang pantao; itatrato sila bilang kapwa-Pilipinong may dignidad; at magkakaroon ng makatarungang resolusyon ang insidenteng ito sa lalong madaling panahon,” Robredo said in a statement. 

(We are hoping that their human rights will be respected; that they will be treated as fellow Filipinos with dignity; and that this incident will have a just resolution as soon as possible.) 

The Vice President also believed that the farmers had no other intention but to provide for their family. 

Bagaman tinutukoy pa ang kabuuang detalye, ilang bagay ang malinaw: Mapayapa ang naganap na pagtitipon. Walang ibang layunin ang mga magsasaka kundi ang magbigay ng maayos na pamumuhay sa kanilang mga pamilya. Pumunta roon ang kanilang mga taga-suporta upang makiisa at tumulong,” she said.

(Even though the details are still being threshed out, some things are clear: The event was held peacefully. The farmers have no other intention but to provide for their family. Their supporters went there for solidarity and to help.) – Rappler.com  

Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.