Plantation expansion causes grave rights violations in a Bukidnon community—investigative mission

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One of the empty bullet shells recovered by mission participants.

 

Land grab for plantation expansion has resulted to grave human rights violations in Barangay Sinangguyan, Don Carlos, Bukidnon.

“Our major finding is the usurpation of the land tilled by farmers for the purposes of the establishment of a corporate plantation,” said Rev. Fr. Christopher Ablon, spokesperson of Karapatan-Northern Mindanao Region.

“Because of this interest, indigenous families who have entered into an agreement with the plantation – that of the Lapanday Foods Corporation, according to the indigenous families we have talked with – have forced their right on the area, which they claim is a part of their ancestral lands. The problem is that they already positioned themselves inside this area even before they are able to secure proper documents. Worse, they were instituted through the violence of a security agency,” Father Ablon continued.

Human rights violations, killing

The investigative mission conducted on April 4, 2016 had documented several human rights violations including one killing. Other cases documented were incidences of threat, harassment and intimidation, indiscriminate firing, destruction or divestment of properties, violation of children’s rights, illegal search and seizure, forcible evacuation, violation of domicile, and coercion.

The struggle of the farmers to keep the land that had been released to them through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has been long. Already, one life had been claimed by the land dispute. Lauro Algora, the leader of the Sinangguyan Farmers’ Organization, was killed in October 2015 while on his way to photocopy his land titles that was to prove his rightful claim to the land.

Despite holding certificates of land ownership award, the farmers’ right to the land has been challenged by the Aboy-Daguiwaas clan for the past years. The farmers insist that they have prior rights to the land even if the entire area is part of an ancestral domain.

“If we look at other CADT [Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title] areas, we see that individuals who have already secured private titles before the passage of the IPRA [Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act] are respected and are not forced out of their lands,” said Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, agreeing that the claim of the farmers is legitimate. “As long as they respect the culture and traditions of the indigenous community, they can remain. This is provided in the law. This is also a cultural practice among our ancestors to welcome anyone who needs to till the land to provide food for their families.”

No bias against IPs

Datu Jomorito clarified that the mission team was not holding biases against the indigenous families in the area. “What we are questioning is the motive behind the move to claim the area as their ancestral domain,” he said. “It may legitimately be their ancestral domain but apparently they are not claiming it to develop it themselves but are leasing it to a plantation. Eventually, the indigenous community will still lose their ancestral lands.”

The mission team also clarifies that what is happening is a pitting of the indigenous clan versus the farmers, both victims of the plantation’s move to grab the land.

“There is enough area to accommodate both the farmers and indigenous families,” said Father Ablon. “But the plantation company wants to control everything.”

The mission team also holds accountable the government institutions that have caused this land conflict. “The creation of policies and programs [CARP, IPRA] were designed to create discord among communities and in the end rob them of their rights to their land,” Father Ablon said.

Solidarity action

The entire activity, dubbed ‘Solidarity Action in Defense of Sinangguyan and Other Plantation-Affected Communities of Bukidnon’, was organized by Kasama Bukidnon, Karapatan – Northern Mindanao Region, and the Network Resisting the Expansion of Agricultural Plantation in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network). The Solidarity Action also included a medical mission and a psycho-social session for children aside from its documentation component.

The activity concluded with a solidarity program with representatives from other farming communities giving testimony of their own experiences against government policies and corporate encroachment of their lands. This was meant to encourage the Sinangguyan farmers to fight for their right to their land.###

 

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The mission’s press conference held April 6 at Cagayan de Oro City. 

April 6, 2016
PRESS RELEASE

For reference:

Jun Benemerito
Secretary General, Kasama-Bukidnon
0905-909-3200

Rev. Fr. Christopher Ablon
Secretary General, Karapatan-Northern Mindanao

Gi Estrada
Secretariat, REAP Mindanao Network
0916-611-4181

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