[Urgent Appeal] Continuing harassment of farmer beneficiaries in Barangay Sumalo, Hermosa, Bataan -TFDP

URGENT APPEAL
June 19, 2015

(PHILIPPINES) Continuing harassment of members of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU), farmer beneficiaries in Barangay Sumalo, Hermosa, Bataan
ISSUES: Right not to be deprived of means of subsistence; Access to Justice; Right to Peace and Order

Dear friends,

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) writes to inform you about the continuing harassment suffered by members of the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU) Farmers by Riverside Development Corporation owned by the Litton Family.

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CASE DETAILS:

Sixty-eight (68) residents and farmers of Barangay Sumalo, Hermosa, Bataan are allegedly being harassed by the Riverside Development Corporation (RDC) owned by the Litton Family.

The farmers said numerous nuisance and trump-up cases were filed against them by the RDC. Based on their documentation these are the following cases:
Reindagatoria – 36 persons – Regional Trial Court 1– since 2009
Injunction – 25 persons – Regional Trial Court 5 – since June 2009
Grave Coercion 1 – 16 persons – Municipal Circuit Trial Court – since June 2009
Grave Coercion 2 – 21 persons – Municipal Circuit Trial Court – since June 2009
Estafa – 14 persons – Municipal Trial Court (Mandaluyong City) since 2013
Ejectment – 18 persons – Regional Trial Court – since 2013
Grave Threat – 1 person – Regional Trial Court – since July 2011
Oral Defamation, Grave Threat – 5 persons – Municipal Circuit Trial Court – since 2014
Misconduct, Grave Coercion – 10 persons – Ombudsman – since 2011
Grave Coercion – 10 persons – Ombudsman – since 2011
Damages – 9 persons – Municipal Trial Court (Mandaluyong City) – since April 2013
Illegal Possession – 2 persons – Fiscal’s office – since 2012
Grave Threat, Coercion – 1 person – Fiscal’s office – since 2012

Based on the narration of Alicia Poblete de los Reyes, one of the victims, the two cases of grave coercion were filed against them when the RDC along with almost a battalion of police personnel and security guards came to assist the workers of RDC in putting up the fence in the Sumalo farmlands. Residents and farmers tried to stop the materials for fencing from coming by barricading the areas called “Taas” and “Baba” referring to Purok 6 and Purok 1 of the barangay.

Danilo Tolentino and Caridad Tolentino, a senior citizen couple, were even surprised that it was the company who filed against them when it was the company personnel who came in the area with big guns to intimidate and frighten the residents during the fencing.

Belinda Petinez, 37 years old, said that she is a defendant in nine of the cases filed by the Littons. She was not even at the area when the incident happened.

Belinda is one of the victims arrested for the grave coercion charges. She and her other companion had to pay a bail of two thousand five hundred pesos each (PHP 2,500.00) to be freed.

Others who were not arrested like Alicia de los Reyes and Constancia Poblete, 72 years old, opted to surrender. They also had to pay one thousand five hundred pesos each (PHP 1,500.00) as bail.

Guillermo Tolentino, 58 year old, defendant in three (3) of the cases, said he wonders why the police arrested the farmers and residents who were just trying to protect their rights to the land they have been tilling. This is very much in contrast to the incident when they brought a barangay tanod who was beaten up by the RDC security and the police did not even entertain them.

The farmers lament the great injustice that the RDC has done to them. They claim that besides being forced out of their farms and homes, they are continually being harassed and intimidated by the company guards. The hearings that they had to attend since 2009 have also taken its toll on their finances. The money they are supposed to use for food for the family is now spent for the hearing expenses.

Besides the trump-up charges, TFDP has also documented 2 cases of destruction of property where security guards of RDC allegedly demolished the houses of two residents Miguel Almeria and Maria Levy Andulan at separate incidences.

A barangay health worker and her family are also experiencing harassment from the hired guards of the RDC.

Charito Datuon Pilor has been residing in the four- hectare land since 1996 before the RDC claimed the land and fenced the 213 hectares farmland in Barangay Sumalo in 2009. After the fencing of the area, the members of the RDC guards prevented them from going inside their lands. She said they have tried to seek help from the local police, but they were told that the police cannot help them since the area was private property. There was also a time that they were prevented to leave the premises for a week. They had to ask help from their neighbors who would sneak the food over the fence.

Charito said that there was also an incident when her nephews, Justin, 9 years old and Renren, 7 years old were climbing a caimito tree in their backyard when a guard, a certain Hermando Tibayan fired his weapon against them for allegedly stealing from the corporation. Guards had also pointed their guns at her children, Archie, Aldrin and Lester who at that time were minors. She said that the incident has been reported to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) but to no avail.

A similar form of harassment was also experienced by the Sacay family. Guards also pointed their guns at the Sacay children, have prevented the family form coming in and out of the fence and have even forbidden visitors and relatives from going to their home inside the fence. Felaine said that Christian even lost his day job as a messenger for a local college since he was being prevented to go out of the area by the guards. He had to sell balut at night to augment their needs since it was only at night when they could sneak out of the fence.
Felaine recounted two incidents, both times when Christian was away, when the periphery of their house was burned. She and her kids were almost burned inside. The guards claimed that the fires were freak accidents and that they had nothing to do with it.
Farmer Jose Laysa his son were arrested and detained by the security guards of the RDC on December 23, 2012 for allegedly “stealing” crops. Although the two were released, Jose was again taken by the guards at another time. A neighbor who witnessed the incident rushed to tell Miriam, Jose’s wife what was happening. Miriam, along with the other women of Sumalo went to the security headquarters to demand for Jose’s release.

CASE BACKGROUND:

According to the members of SANAMABASU, they have been experiencing harassment from the Litton Family since 1991 when the Littons decided to withdraw their Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS) and opted to apply for conversion of the land to industrial, commercial and residential use.

The land in question is supposedly a CARP-able land until the corporation filed a land-conversion claim at the Office of the President during the Fidel V. Ramos presidency. The decision was overturned by the OP again during the presidency of Joseph Estrada. After this, the Littons filed a case at the Court of Appeals that overturned the decision of the OP based on the technicality that the name of the organization is of a homeowners’ organization, not of a farmers’ organization and is said to have no legal personality to claim for CARP. The Supreme Court seconded the decision of the CA in 2009.

The farmers steadfastly continued their struggle by taking the case again to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) when the corporation has failed to develop the land within five years as per requirement of Land Conversion. The land is supposed to be surveyed by the local DAR but they are still waiting for police assistance since according to the local DAR, the company guards are preventing them from entering the premises.

The farmers are the supposed beneficiaries of the land through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

REQUESTED ACTION:

PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO THE CONCERNED GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO BRING TO JUSTICE THE PERPETRATORS OF CONTINUING HARASSMENT AND ENSURE AND GUARANTEE THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF ALL MEMBERS OF SAMAHAN NG NAGKAKAISANG MAMAMAYAN NG BARANGAY SUMALO (SANAMABASU), FARMERS AND RESIDENTS OF SUMALO, HERMOSA, BATAAN.

Thank you.

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
SAMPLE LETTER:
Dear,
Greetings!

This is to express my grave concern regarding the continuing harassment of the Samahan Ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan Ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU), in Sumalo, Hermosa, Bataan.

I have learned that the farmers and residents have been experiencing harassments and other human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, destruction of property and threats to safety and life since 2009.

I have also learned that the farmers are the supposed beneficiaries of the land through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but that the land has not been distributed and in fact has been fenced to prevent the farmers and residents from entering the land.

I have learned that they have been denied proper means to subsistence and that the farmers and residents have exhausted all their means to gain justice but that their experiences under the Riverside Development Corporation owned by the Litton Family and the hired security guards have mostly been ignored or the process taken too long.
I am writing to ask for immediate action in favor of the victims and SANAMABASU members:
1. For the security and safety of SANAMABASU members and families.

2. For the immediate and impartial investigation on continued harassment committed by Riverside Development Corporation owned by the Litton Family and the hired security guards.

3. For the perpetrators be held accountable for their actions against the farmers and residents of Barangay Sumalo, Hermosa, Bataan.

4. For the provision of fair and impartial assistance by the police in the area.

Thank you.
Respectfully yours,

_______________________

PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila
1005 Philippines
Tel: +6327356201/5641451 to 80
Email: corres@op.gov.ph/opnet@ops.gov.ph

2. Hon. Leila M. De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila
1000 Philippines
Fax: +63 2 523 9548
Tel: +63 2 521 1908
Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph / doj.delima@gmail.com

3. Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188
Fax: +63 2 929 0102

4. Atty. Virgilio R. Delos Reyes
Secretary of Agrarian Reform
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +02 929-34-60; +02 928-70-31
Fax: + 02 920-03-80
Email: secgildar@gmail.com

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