Farmer murdered as violence escalates in Mindanao palm oil plantation
San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, 09 August 2014. A 42-year old farmer died early this morning of multiple gunshot wounds in Brgy. Ebro, this municipality. One of the suspects, Anecito Ortiz, is the manager of the Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc., the biggest palm oil operator in Mindanao.
The victim, Armando Campos y Adlawan was reportedly on his way to their strike area in Brgy. Ebro at around 5:30 this morning when he was ambushed by the suspects. He was shot point blank in the face with a 0.45 caliber pistol by Ortiz. Eyewitnesses say that Campos attempted to flee but Ortiz and two other suspects, an alias Junie Maltos” and Arnold Guloran gave chase, peppering him with gun shots.
Seven empty shell casings were recovered by police Scene of the Crime operatives less than a meter away from the body of the victim, who died on the spot.
The incident is seen as again another attempt to foil the ongoing struggle of the farmers to regain control of their land. This almost 4,000-hectare landholding was among the first properties covered under the agrarian reform program in 1988 and awarded by then President Corazon Aquino to the 937 members of the NDC Guthrie Estates Inc. Multipurpose Cooperative (NGEI-MPC). An estimated 60% of these agrarian reform beneficiaries and NGEI members belong to the indigenous tribes of Agusan del Sur.
The victim, a Manobo, was one of them.
Almost a month ago, on July 11, 2014, these ARBs served notice to FPPI management that they are terminating their lease contract which was executed in 1990 between the FFPI and former officers of the cooperative to take effect from 1988 to 2032. At annual rental rate of ?635.00 per hectare which has never been reviewed much less increased since, it is no surprise that the farmers no longer wish to wait until the contract’s expiration in 2032 to exercise full control of their land.
Since then, the FPPI has reportedly resorted to various acts designed to harass and frighten the more than 1,000 farmer families who have joined hands to reclaim their right to the land.
“The murder of Campos today, in broad daylight, is but another show of FPPI’s power and their absolute lack of respect for the law” according to Mr. Hernancito Ronquillo, NGEI-MPC chairman.
“They know that they can get away with it. We are sure they will not stop at this. We are ready to defend ourselves, but we are holding on to the fervent hope that the administration of President Aquino will finally give us justice,” Ronquillo adds.
Ortiz and the other suspects are reported to have surrendered to local police authorities, but were not apprehended. They were immediately released and remain at large as of this writing.
The father of the victim expressed disappointment at the way local police are handling the incident, denying him access to the SOCO reports and police blotter unless he submits a request signed by his lawyer.
He claims that local police tried to persuade him to execute an affidavit of desistance with the assurance that the suspects will defray the funeral expenses.
Local and national offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform have yet to comment on the incident.
Ms. Ronita P. Buenventura
Mr. Eufronio Magaway/Mr. Edwin Malacao
The victim, Armando Campos y Adlawan, on the ground where he fell dead. Numbers indicate the areas where scene of the crime operatives found the seven (7) empty shell casings.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2014
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