Barely two days after International Human Rights Day, seven banana workers were reportedly wounded from gunshots fired by security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) in Madaum, Tagum City.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns this latest atrocity against the banana workers who are also agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) connected with the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc (MARBAI) and the Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (UGMAD –TRA) or Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform), an affiliate of UMA in Tagum City.
According to Kilab Multimedia, the wounded are Jose Balucos, 42; Rico Saladaga; Jojo Gomez; Belardo Francisco; Emanuel Buladaco, 46; Joseph Bertulfo, 58; and a minor, Taldan Miparanun, 16. They are now at the Davao Regional Medical Center at Tagum City seeking treatment. At least 10 guards fired indiscriminately at the protesters. The victims were also reportedly sprayed with chemicals.
UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that the Duterte government must immediately investigate the incident and punish the security guards and management Lapanday, which is owned by the Lorenzos.
The Lorenzo landlord family is also connected to Hacienda Luisita, where violence also erupted due to land disputes last week. Martin Lorenzo, brother of Lapanday’s CEO Regina Lorenzo, is a top executive and active partner of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in running the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.
Three days ago, around a thousand members of MARBAI and UGMAD –TRA stormed the gates of LFC in Madaum, Tagum City to protest against the onerous agribusiness venture arrangement or AVA implemented between the ARBs and various banana plantations. The beneficiaries launched a land occupation campaign to reclaim their land.
Alternative media group Kilab Multimedia posted on social media exclusive photos and footage of the banana workers’ protest.
During one confrontation, workers took off their shirts to show the guards that they are unarmed. Despite this, a shooting incident still occurred on Dec. 9 when at least 31 shots were fired by fully-armed and masked LFC guards. Nobody was reported injured in that earlier incident.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) later upheld the claim of the beneficiaries as rightful owners of the land reform area grabbed by Lapanday.
Antonio Tuyak, MARBAI, 09067033086
Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181