ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-014-2014

22 April 2014

[Re: AHRC-UAU-011-2014: PHILIPPINES : A peasant leader who was defending his land was hurt in a confrontation with thugs]
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PHILIPPINES : Five peasant leaders were arrested for unknown reasons in Central Luzon

ISSUES: Human rights defenders; land rights
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that five farmers, all members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), were arrested by the local police while resting in their farm hut. They were given any reason for their arrest which was ordered by the Department of Agrarian Reform.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on the documentation by the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN))

In our appeal in March 3, 2014 (AHRC-UAU-011-2014) we reported that a peasant leader was hurt after protecting his land from perpetrators that set up markers on disputed land. The disputed land is covered by a notice of land reform coverage dated December 17, 2013 issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

On 3 April 2014, George Gatus, Leoncio Suarez, Alvin Gratil, Jaime Quiambao and Gerry Catalan members of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) tried to approach several persons loitering in a farmlot in Barangay Mapalacsiao to simply ask what these strangers were doing. Before the farmers could even approach them, these persons ran away.

After a few moments, while the farmers were already resting in a farm hut, they were rounded up by the Acting Chief of Police of Tarlac City, Police Supt. Felix Bervo commanding around twenty policemen and Special Weapons Action and Tactics (SWAT) officers armed with high-powered rifles.

The five farmers were not informed of the reason for their arrest and were directly brought to Camp Macabulos , the Philippine National Police (PNP) provincial headquarters in Tarlac City , instead of the nearest police precinct located within Barangay Mapalacsiao.

Upon hearing of this most recent arrest of farmworkers, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) of which AMBALA is associated, reached the DAR’s Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Ileona Pangilinan via phone, to report the incident which possibly involved DAR personnel.

UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis sought Pangilinan’s intervention for the immediate release of the farmworkers. PARO Pangilinan promised to send their legal affairs officer to possibly assist in the release of the said farmers.

After a few hours, UMA and AMBALA learned that it would be impossible for the DAR to “assist” in the release because the DAR itself caused the arrest. A certain Francis Figueroa, an engineer hired by the FF Cruz firm and DAR, acted as complainant to justify the farmers’ arrest.

The five farmers were detained for criminal offense and immediately released after posting a Php 2,000.00 each as bail bond.

Personnel hired by the DAR were previously involved in violence against farmworkers. Faustino Corpuz, Sr, a thug employed by a surveyor of DAR, was involved in two separate violent assaults against members of AMBALA. On January 22, he together with another hired hand, Nixon Notarte suddenly attacked a senior citizen, AMBALA member Manuel Gomez with a large metal digger and a crowbar seriously wounding the latter.

The second incident involving Corpuz was when he hit namesake AMBALA leader Rudy Corpuz with a hammer in the head on March 24, just after a dialogue with PARO Pangilian in Tarlac City a few hours earlier. A more serious incident happened on March 28, when four (4) AMBALA leaders and members in Cutcut suffered hammer blows from TADECO hired thugs.

TADECO and the DAR therefore hired the same thug, Faustino Corpuz, Sr., for menial labor which also involved harassment and violence against dissenting farmers.

Violent eviction, burning of huts and bulldozing of crops ordered by the Cojuangco-Aquino family could have been prevented had the DAR only acted on AMBALA’s motion to issue out a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against TADECO. All that DAR did was issue a useless “show cause” order against TADECO. DAR officials admitted it cannot impose the CDO for the simple reason that TADECO refused to accept their “show cause” order.

To support this appeal, please click here: http://www.urgentappeals.net/support.php?ua=AHRC-UAU-014-2014

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………,

PHILIPPINES: Five peasant leaders were arrested for unknown reasons in Central Luzon

Name of the victims:
1. George Gatus
2. Leoncio Suarez
3. Alvin Gratil
4. Jaime Quiambao
5. Gerry Catalan
All members of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA)
Alleged Perpetrators: Acting Chief of Police of Tarlac City, Police Supt. Felix Bervo commanding twenty policemen and Special Weapons Action and Tactics (SWAT) team armed with high-powered rifles.
Date of incident: 3 April 2014
Place of incident: Barangay Mapalacsiao, Tarlac City

I am writing to raise my grave concern regarding the case of five farmers in Central Luzon . On 3 April 2014, George Gatus, Leoncio Suarez, Alvin Gratil, Jaime Quiambao and Gerry Catalan members of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) tried to approach several persons loitering in a farmlot in Barangay Mapalacsiao to simply ask what these strangers were doing. Before the farmers could even approach them, these persons ran away.

After a few moments, while the farmers were already resting in a farmhut, they were rounded up with the Acting Chief of Police of Tarlac City, Police Supt. Felix Bervo commanding around twenty policemen and Special Weapons Action and Tactics (SWAT) team armed with high-powered rifles.

The five farmers were not informed of the reason for their arrest and were directly brought to Camp Macabulos , the Philippine National Police (PNP) provincial headquarters in Tarlac City , instead of the nearest police precinct located within Barangay Mapalacsiao.

Upon hearing of this most recent arrest of farmworkers, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) of which AMBALA is associated, reached the DAR’s Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Ileona Pangilinan via phone, to report the incident which possibly involved DAR personnel.

I learned that UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis sought Pangilinan’s intervention for the immediate release of the farmworkers. PARO Pangilinan promised to send their legal affairs officer to possibly assist in the release of the said farmers.

After a few hours, UMA and AMBALA learned that it would be impossible for the DAR to “assist” in the release because the DAR itself caused the arrest. A certain Francis Figueroa, an engineer hired by the FF Cruz firm and DAR, acted as complainant to justify the farmers’ arrest.

The five farmers were detained for criminal offense and immediately released after posting a Php. 2,000.00 each as bail bond.

Personnel hired by the DAR were previously involved in violence against farm workers. Faustino Corpuz, Sr, a thug employed by a surveyor of DAR, was involved in two separate violent assaults against members of AMBALA. On January 22, he together with another hired hand, Nixon Notarte suddenly attacked a senior citizen, AMBALA member Manuel Gomez with a large metal digger and a crowbar seriously wounding the latter.

The second incident involving Corpuz was when he hit namesake AMBALA leader Rudy Corpuz with a hammer in the head on March 24, just after a dialogue with PARO Pangilian in Tarlac City a few hours earlier. A more serious incident happened on March 28, when four (4) AMBALA leaders and members in Cutcut suffered hammer blows from TADECO hired thugs.

TADECO and the DAR therefore hired the same thug, Faustino Corpuz, Sr., for menial labor which also involved harassment and violence against dissenting farmers.

Violent eviction, burning of huts and bulldozing of crops ordered by the Cojuangco-Aquino family could have been prevented had the DAR only acted on AMBALA’s motion to issue out a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against TADECO. All that DAR did was issue a useless “show cause” order against TADECO. DAR officials admitted it cannot impose the CDO for the simple reason that TADECO refused to accept their “show cause” order.

I urge you to properly investigate the case of harassment on Hacienda Luisita farmers. Also, ensure that the local agrarian reform office act on the pending petition filed by AMBALA last December.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in this.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

3. Police Director Alan LM Purisima
Chief, Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax +632 7248763
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

5. Atty. Virgilio R. Delos Reyes
Secretary
Department of Agrarian Reform
Elliptical Road, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 920-03-80
E-mail: gildlr2010@gmail.com; secgildar@gmail.com

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

AHRC Philippines page: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/philippines

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