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PIA Press Release

Harrasment of farmers exposed as modus operandi of landowners

by Romy Sabaldan

Davao City (20 October) -- The filing of criminal cases against farmer beneficiaries of the government land reform program is pure harassment being employed by landowners who does not want to let go of their landholdings.

Undersecretary Narciso B. Nieto of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) revealed this to media Thursday at the penultimate day of the October 16-20, 2006 Multi-Sectoral Seminar Workshop on Agrarian Justice held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City.

Nieto described the harassment being employed by landowners as their "Modus Operandi" opposing the implementation of agrarian reform program to finally erased what he said as the "last bastion of feudalism" in the country.

The DAR Field Operations Chief cited as one stark example their experience in the Bondoc Peninsula where 100 farmer beneficiaries have ended up being charged with qualified theft for stealing coconuts that the farmers themselves have planted.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), for its part, said that the excessive amount of bail bond being imposed against farmers constitute a perpetual harassment of farm workers.

CHR Commissioner Wilhelm Soriano said these farmer beneficiaries who had been issued land titles are in many instances, unable to occupy the land as legal owners and even end up languishing in jail for failure to pay bail bonds on the cases deemed as valid complaints by those whom he described as "trigger-happy" prosecutors and judges.

Undersecretary Nieto said such cases are common in areas they called as hot spots especially the Visayas areas of both Oriental and Occidental Mindoro where "sugarlandia" is.

Harassment cases also occurred in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao especially those involving landowners who are holding on to their big landholdings as a status symbol and are not willing to part of with the lands that the farmers had been tilling all their lives. (PIA XI) [top]

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