PENANG, Malaysia – Regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) joins Filipino peasant groups in condemning the recent killing of four farmers in a military reservation that is the subject of a land conflict.
In a report by the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (Alliance of Farmers in Central Luzon – AMGL), the farmers were shot and killed by unknown assailants while resting from their farm chores last Saturday afternoon, 3 September. Victims Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were part of an AMGL-initiated land cultivation campaign inside Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija province, more than 179 kilometers north of the capital, Manila.
Another victim, Angelita Milan was injured and rushed to the hospital. Land cultivation campaign – locally called “bungkalan” – is a symbolic protest to assert land rights among Philippine farmers.
Fort Magsaysay is a 3,100 hectare disputed land where incidents of human rights violations such as displacement and killings have been previously reported by local farmers and human rights organizations.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasant Movement – KMP) claims that Fort Magsaysay has been ruled for distribution since 1991 under government’s land reform program. But until today, no one of the 5,000 farmer beneficiaries was given genuine land ownership.
A 2015 report by the Global Witness has tagged the Philippines as one of the most dangerous places for environment and land defenders. Meanwhile, PANAP’s Land & Rights Watch has monitored 48 cases of human rights violations related to land grabbing from January 2015 to August 2016.
PANAP expressed hope that the new Philippine administration will be able to put an end to the longstanding violence and human rights abuses against landless farmers and poor rural people.