PHILIPPINES: Peasant family arrested for opposing ‘development’ projects

Friday 25 April 2014

Date: 21 April 2014

Type: News

Source: Bulatlat.com

Keywords: Development aggression, Peasants, Land grabbing

“The arrest is part of the intensifying political repression targeting groups and individuals who oppose development projects in the famous Hamilo Coast in Batangas by Henry Sy-owned Manila Southcoast Development Corporation (MSDC) and reclamation projects in Cavite coasts by Ken Ang-owned Cyberbay Corporation.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Progressive groups based in the Southern Tagalog region are calling for the release of four peasants who were reportedly arrested during a police and military search operation in Hacienda Looc in Batangas last April 15. “The arrest is part of the intensifying political repression targeting groups and individuals who oppose development projects in the famous Hamilo Coast in Batangas by Henry Sy-owned Manila Southcoast Development Corporation (MSDC) and reclamation projects in Cavite coasts by Ken Ang-owned Cyberbay Corporation,” Porferio Resurreccion Jr., provincial coordinator of Anakbayan-Cavite, said.

The arrested peasants are Armando Lemita, his wife Rosenda brother Anatalio, and daughter Alaiza Lemita, regional vice chairperson of Anakbayan-Southern Tagalog.

Alaiza is only 17 years old.

Anakbayan – Southern Tagalog said members of the Regional Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police and of the 733rd squadron of the Philippine Air Force “barged into the compound of the Lemita family and battered and arrested Lemita” before arresting his relatives.

The police also tried to arrest Armando’s 13-year-old son for trying to protect his father, Gabriela – Southern Tagalog said in a press release sent to the media.

Gabriela – Southern Tagalog said the arrest is “inhumane and the arrested peasants were treated like animals.”

Armando is the spokesperson of local peasant group Ugnayan ng mga Mamamayan Laban sa Pangwawasak sa Kalupaan ng Hacienda Looc. Rosanda and Armando are also members of the said peasant group, which has been very vocal in the fight against the land grabbing in their community. Some 10,000 families are being threatened to be evicted in more than 8,500 hectares of land.

“Our land is not for sale. It is not a commodity that real estate developers can peddle to their rich clients,” Armando said in a previous Bulatlat.com report. Resurreccion said, “We cannot simply ignore the relation of the arrest of the four peasants with the escalating social unrest in Hacienda Looc and Cavite coastal areas with the villagers’ opposition to anti-people and anti-development ‘development’ projects.”

Activists held a protest action in front of Camp Vicente Lim last April 17 to demand for the immediate release of the Lemita family. At around 9 a.m., the police surfaced Armando, Rosenda and Alaiza who were charged with obstruction of justice and direct assault. Protesters were told that Anatalio, who is being charged with illegal possession of firearms, was brought to Batangas City on April 16.

“Truly, this event proves that the fight for genuine agrarian reform, freedom and democracy still continues, and that the struggle for such shakes the knees of the administration and the ruling elite, cognizant of the role of militant, collective action,” Diego Torres, Anakbayan-Southern Tagalog chairperson, said.

Land grabbing in Southern Tagalog

Apart from the four arrested peasant leaders in Hacienda Looc, Resurrecion said there are also other incidents of community leaders being arrested because of their fight against land-use conversion.

On Feb. 21, 2014, two fisherfolk leaders in Maragondon, Cavite were arrested. The two were opposed to the land-use conversion of their 602-hectare community in Brgy. Patungan in Maragondon, which would be converted for “recreation and leisure purposes as part of the Hamilo Coast project of Sy’s MSDC.”

Resurreccion said “Big businesses cannot pursue their plan without US-Aquino regime backing,” adding that the Comprehensive Agrarian Region Program and the National Reclamation Plan has allowed big businesses to destroy the environment and the livelihood of the people.

Hacienda Looc, despite being categorized as a productive agricultural land, was covered under CARPER. It is, however, included the National Reclamation Plan, together with 12 reclamation projects along seven municipalities in Batangas and two in Cavite.

“This incident ticks another record in the regime’s bloody history in failing to uphold the rights of the Filipino people, particularly those of the youth and peasants. The intensifying repression and suppression of dissent only agitates the youth, peasants and all of the people to tear off the facade of good governance, and pushes them to call for a change in the country’s leadership in the short run, and the overthrow of the rotten system in the long run,” Torres said. ###

See online : Bulatlat.com

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