Philippines: ICHRP calls for release of some 97 land reform beneficiaries and supporters

June 10, 2022

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is calling for the release of some 97 land reform beneficiaries and land reform advocates arrested in Tarlac on the eve of the 34th year of the Land Reform Act global (CARP). passed under the Aquino government in 1988 and those arrested were the supporters and beneficiaries of this land reform program.

Police officers arrested 97 land reform beneficiaries and land reform advocates at Hacienda Tinang, Concepcion, Tarlac on June 9, 2022 at around 1 p.m. This included 6 farmers, 30 students including a student journalist covering the issue, 11 researchers, 45 peasant advocates, 2 elderly people, 3 drivers and 4 minors (whom the police will only hand over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development) .

Prior to the arrests, local police ordered legitimate land reform beneficiaries to stop bungkalan (collective farming) at Hacienda Tinang and attempted to arrest Felino Cunanan, Jr., president of the land reform advocacy group MAKISAMA -Tinang. The police then returned to disrupt the mobilization and peace program that had just begun.

Among those arrested are the Promised Lands through CARP. Despite confirming that the arrested farmers were legitimate CARP beneficiaries and that the issue was related to a land dispute, local Department of Land Reform (DAR) officials said they would not interfere in the repressive actions by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Police aggressively targeted anyone within reach and eventually seized the property and took into custody three MAKISAMA-Tinang members: Felino Cunanan Jr., Ophelia Cunanan and Alvin Dimarucot.

Police surrounded and dismantled the hut where more than 90 defenders sought refuge during the violent disturbances. They were tagged as NPA and have been detained, along with the arrested farmers, in the PNP Concepcion compound since 1 p.m. on June 9, 2022. They would be arraigned and charged with obstruction of justice, some of alleged malicious misdeeds.

ICHRP joins the Union of Agriculture Workers (Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura) and calls on the international community to demand the immediate release of those arrested and pressure the DAR to defend the beneficiaries of the reform agrarian who, since 1995, have been victims of theft of their right to cultivate their land.

“The beneficiaries and advocates of land reform, and their activities to advance land reform, should not be criminalized. Using bungkalan (collective farming) to help maintain daily sustenance in order to survive is not a crime,” said ICHRP Chairman Peter Murphy.

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