Agrarian violence claims more lives

April 29, 2006 at 9:26 am 1 comment


Agrarian violence claimed two more lives this month. A leader of Task Force Mapalad (TFM), Rico Adeva, 39, was gunned down by three men as he and his wife Nenita were walking to their home in Barangay Dos Hermanas, Silay City, Negros Occidental on Black Saturday. He suffered seven bullet wounds – in the head, stomach, chest, and hand. Meanwhile, in Davao, the Secretary General of the National Coordination of Autonomous Local Rural People’s Organizations (UNORKA), Eric Cabanit, was assassinated by two masked men while he was in a public market in Panabo last April 24, 2006. His daughter, who was with him when the shooting happened, was also wounded and is still in critical condition.

The killing of Adeva and Cabanit are clearly agrarian reform-related. Indeed, we expect more cases of violence because CARP is already in its last – and arguably most difficult – stretch. The government has already distributed non-controversial public and private lands, while controversial and large haciendas remain untouched. Big land owners have cultivated a sense of impunity hardened by the government’s coddling of landed interests, private armies, and the lack of political will to redistribute lands.

Adeva’s organization, TFM, a network of more than 300 peasant groups, has confronted several cases of agrarian violence in the past and some of its members had been killed by private armies supported by landlords who are opposed to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). In one case in Negros, a sixty-year old CARP beneficiary fondly ‘Nanay Teresa Mameng’ by her fellow peasants, was found dead after gunmen randomly fired at an agrarian reform community. Nanay Mameng’s case resulted in a congressional investigation on agrarian violence in Negros, where vast lands, some of them owned by the Arroyos or protected by the Arroyos, still have to be acquired and distributed under CARP. In Congress, we have been challenging Rep. Iggy Arroyo and President GMA herself to make a firm stand against agrarian violence and pave the way for the full implementation of agrarian reform in the island. In both Negros Occidental and Oriental, more than 2, 000 Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) holders have not been installed in farm lands given to them because of strong resistance from hacienderos who resort to legal manipulations and violence to retain control over their land.

In the case of Ka Eric from UNORKA, the redistribution of the 5, 000 hectare Davao Penal Colony (DAPECOL), which is still controlled by the Floirendo clan, is being eyed as the main motive behind his assassination. DAPECOL should have been distributed years ago, but the Floirendos have successfully blocked attempts to give the land to more than 8, 000 workers.

We are posting below a very moving statement released by the Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services (PARRDS), where Ka Eric served as a Board Member. The statement was subsequently published in Land and Justice, a special publication by PARRDS, UNORKA, and PEACE Foundation to cover the justice campaign for slain peasant leaders. (Click here for more updates on the killing of Ka Eric)

TO FALL LIKE A SEED

Throughout his entire life, Enrico Cabanit has grown accustomed to the art of seed-planting—memorizing each and every step, closely following every ritual, and singing his paean to the heavens upon the coming of harvest. In the end, Ka Eric fell like the seeds that he has tendered with his firm yet loving hands, commingling with the earth with no intent of burying the past, but to instead allow new lives to sprout. This was the essence of his sacrifice.

On 24 April 2006, at around 6:10 in the evening, Ka Eric Cabanit and his daughter Daffodil was in the public market of Pandao buying what was probably their evening meal when they were shot by two identified men on top of a motorcycle. The father died instantly, sustaining at least five gunshot wounds in the head, practically destroying his skull. His daughter, on the other hand, was rushed to the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum where she is now in ICU, suffering from a single gunshot wound that left a hole in her lungs.

The Secretary General of the Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA), Ka Eric has just concluded a dialogue with a number officials from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) when he was gunned down by his assailants.

During the said interface, no less than the Undersecretary for Field Operations Narciso Nieto had pledged to issue an order to the DAR regional office to release a decision by today (25 April 2006) regarding UNORKA’s petition to place the 300-hectare citrus farms of the Worldwide Agricultural Development Corporation (WADECOR) under CARP.

He further promised to send a technical team to the said 1,023-hectare plantation at the soonest possible time to determine why it was exempted from the government’s land reform program by former DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao.

It is for this reason that his colleagues in UNORKA have placed the blame on the politically influential Floirendo clan which has the sole motive for his murder, being the owners of WADECOR and other similar plantations in Davao del Norte.
Ka Eric’s death sets a very alarming precedent for agrarian reform advocates. It must be recalled that even prior to his murder, a spate killings were reported in April alone, targeting peasant leaders and rural activists known for their outspoken resistance to landlord domination.

And Ka Eric was no different. Not only was he a national leader of UNORKA, he was also member of our own Board of Directors and was very much active in the National Anti-Poverty Commission’s (NAPC) Farmers’ Sectoral Council—a legally created body that is tasked to monitor the government’s poverty alleviation programs. He was also a Presidium member of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) which sought to disclose the truth behind the now infamous “Hello, Garci” tapes.

We believe that the masterminds of Ka Eric’s murder have reckoned that with his death, it would create a chilling effect on the farmer communities in Davao del Norte, thus paralyzing their efforts to implement agrarian reform and secure the landowners’ continued control of their plantations.

But they are gravely mistaken. For those of us who are left behind are even more inspired to take the cudgels for Ka Eric, to seek the perpetrators and place them before the bar of justice and finally end the centuries-old struggle for land in favor of the farmers. This is our task and we will see to it to the end.

Indeed, we are the new plants that have sprouted from Ka Eric’s humble kernel.

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Entry filed under: Agrarian Reform, AKBAYAN in Congress.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. dungkal  |  May 8, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Risa. Great piece for Ka Eric and against agrarian violence. I just want to inform you that there’s a specific web page for Ka Eric Cabanit: http://enricocabanit.peace.net.ph.

    Meanwhile, I added your blog to my blogroll. In fact, I’m also using WordPress. Can you also add my blog to yours? My blog site is http://dungkal.wordpress.com.

    More power.

    Reply

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