3 CMU guards in protest firing incident arrested, released

MALAYBALAY CITY – Three security guards of the Center Mindanao University were arrested for their alleged role in the June 14, 2011 incident involving the alleged firing of farmers in protest near the university’s main gate in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon, SPO3 Fernando Razalo, Maramag police investigator, told Bukidnon News Thursday.

Razalo said the three suspects, Henry Faciol, Evans Andoy, and Nestor Jonasan, were identified by the victims when they reported the incident to the police Tuesday. He identified Winnie Luable, one of those hit by gun fire, as among the victims who identified the suspects in an affidavit executed by the victims before police investigators.

Police presented the three suspects to Provincial Prosecutors Thursday for inquest proceedings, Razalo added.

In their affidavit, Razalo said, the victims claimed the guards fired after the farmers tried to stop them from dismantling and confiscating their tents and materials.

But provincial prosecutor Phoebe Loyola Toribio told Bukidnon News Thursday afternoon she did not accept the affidavit and cancelled the inquest. She said the affidavit was “tupsy turvy,” as the violation is not even articulated. She said there were conflicting responses from the complainants and decided to give them a chance for them to “repair” the affidavit.

Because of the absence of a formal complaint, Toribio said the suspects have to be released to avoid arbitrary detention.

But she clarified that the complaint was not dismissed.

“Practically there is still no complaint (as of now),” he added.

She has likewise recommended an “ordinary preliminary investigation.”

Jose Benemirito, a BTL spokesperson, confirmed the situation to Bukidnon News before noon Thursday after their session with Toribio.

Five members of the Buffalo-Tamarraw-Limus (BTL) Association were hit and were brought to two hospitals, Agustin Sanong, the group’s media liaison said.

The farmers have been protesting since May 24 CMU’s decision not to extend their lease over 400 hectares of land and to relocate them afterwards.

The guards dismantled the protesters’ tents in the area and confiscated their materials, Sanong added.

Sanong yesterday told Bukidnon News via SMS that about 40 CMU blue guards aboard two multi-cabs arrived around 10a.m and fired without warning.

He identified the victims as BTL spokesperson Jose Benemirito, hit in the foot; Larry Divera, hit in the foot and chest; Oyong Santillan, hit in the foot and back; Abelardo Jarden, hit in the leg; and Marilou Porten.

Sanong could not name who among the victims have been declared safe as of Tuesday evening but he said two still had to undergo operation. The victims were brought to hospitals in Valencia and in Malaybalay cities, he said.

Maramag police officer-in-charge Chief Inspector Linoraldo Torres refused to give details “pending investigation.” He said police investigator SP02 Regner Sevilleno was yet to submit his initial report as of Tuesday afternoon, although he promised to give Bukidnon News a copy of the report.

According to an SMS report forwarded by Supt. Canilo A. Fuentes, provincial police deputy director for operations, six protesting farmers were hit “during a commotion” when their shanties were being demolished by the CMU guards.

Quoting from a report, Fuentes said the guards were led by CMU security director George Gewan.

The same report said that the guards confiscated the protesters’ tent and bamboos poles.

“They even took our rice supply, rice pots, tarps, and leaving us almost with nothing,” Sanong said.

But Sanong admitted that their permit to hold a rally has already expired.

Since May 24, some 500 BTL members had gathered at the main gate of CMU after a task force formed by the university failed to forge an agreement on the fate of about 800 families occupying at least 400 of some 3,000 hectares of CMU lands.

The farmers are asking that their collective contract be extended for four more years, pledging to pay P5,000 per hectare per year and demanding a permanent relocation site by the end of the four-year extension. The CMU agreed for an extension, requiring only P1 per year lease but no extension. The farmers did not agree.

Benemirito told Bukidnon News on May 28 that the farmers are still open to the relocation site in Talakag town offered by the provincial government. But he said they could not move out right away of the site is not ready.

In 1991, The Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) awarded some 400 hectares of CMU lands to BTL farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

After a few years however the Supreme Court overturned the DARAB’s decision.

Despite the SC decision the farmers continued tilling the land amid efforts by CMU to eject them, at times allegedly through harassment.

Successive school presidents starting from Dr. Leonardo Chua during the Cory Aquino administration have had failed to resolve the land conflict between CMU and the farmers.

Meanwhile, Danny Menente, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao was quoted in an earlier Bukidnon News report that the incident in CMU showed that peasants have nothing to celebrate about the CARP for its alleged failure to implement land distribution for farmers.

“We have not benefited anything from CARP but instead of the promised social justice, we are now poorer than ever on account that we are continuously and deliberately deprived of owning the land we till. CARP has only worsened our situation,” Menente said.

CARP marks its 23rd anniversary this month. It became a law in 1988 as Republic Act 6657. (Walter I. Balane)

See this story also in: www.mindanews.com

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