Press Release
November 7, 2008

Rights of Negros farmers must be respected - Pimentel

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called on agrarian reform and law enforcement authorities to respect the right of farmers to occupy and possess the 33-hectare hacienda in Negros Oriental owned by former Congressman Herminio Teves which was awarded to them by the government under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Pimentel made the appeal after the farmers entered the hacienda and declared that they were taking possession of the property that straddles Barangay Villareal in Bayawan and Caranoche in Sta Catalina towns, Negros Oriental.

He said the farmer-beneficiaries would not have forcibly taken over the hacienda had Teves not resisted the coverage of his property under CARP and had not DAR officials deliberately delayed the final approval and implementation of the land award even after its legality was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Pimentel cautioned the police against being used to get the farmers out of the estate or force in doing so.

"I hope the police will not allow themselves to be used by the powerful. They have more than enough problems in their hands - the hot euros of some of their officials who have tarnished even the good name of thousands of the good men and women in the police department all over the land," he said.

The appeal was specifically addressed by the senator to Chief Inspector Julius Munez, head of the 705th Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police, which was dispatched to restore order and "defuse" tension in the disputed estate.

Pimentel said he was informed that some of the farmers have been taken to the hospital for treatment after suffering strokes caused by their hunger strike. "They need the support of the people."

The Teves property was awarded to l9 tenant-farmers by DAR. But when the owner defied the DAR decision, the farmers filed a petition with the Supreme Court which issued a ruling in 2004 affirming their claim to the hacienda.

Despite the SC decision, then DAR Region 6 Director Yusoph Mama issued a cease-and-desist order, preventing the DAR provincial office in Negros Oriental from installing the farmer-beneficiaries. Until now, about fours years after the high court ruling, the DAR authorities concerned have failed to settle the land dispute.

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