As farmer-couple killed by Singson’s men were laid to rest, another peasant leader harassed by private army of Mar Roxas’ cousin


The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today dared Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to immediately probe the extra-judicial killing of two farmer leaders allegedly killed by suspected security guards of former Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson due to a land dispute and the human rights abuses done by private armies of big landlords in the City of San Jose Del Monte province of Bulacan.


The KMP issued the challenge after recent reports on the killings of indigenous peoples in Mindanao quoted De Lima saying that “the government reaffirms its policy of peace without impunity and justice without surrender” and that “the DOJ assures the public that any human rights violation and criminal offense committed will be investigated and prosecuted with determination.”


“We challenge De Lima to probe the killing of the Vargas couple and the existence of private armies in San Jose Del Monte and see for herself how impunity persists due to the Aquino government continuing tolerance that is tantamount to approval of extra-judicial killings,” says KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.


Flores said that “a day after two peasant leaders killed last Saturday were laid to rest or at around 11:30 a.m. today, Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulakan – SJDM chair Eriberto Pena was harassed by seven armed men believed to be security guards and private army employed by Gregorio ‘Greggy’ Araneta, cousin of Liberal Party presidential aspirant Manuel Roxas.”


A report reaching KMP office said that a certain Soriano with six other men carrying M-16 rifles, believed to be a private army of Araneta, intimidated Pena saying, “Ano ba ang gusto ninyo? Ikaw ang land-grabber dito hindi ang Araneta, lupa ito ng Araneta. Magkakasubukan tayo dito.”


The KMP said that the land occupied and being tilled by Pena in Barangay Tungkong Mangga was placed under the government’s sham Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in the late 1990’s. The Araneta’s questioned the coverage and up to now, the agrarian dispute is still pending.


On Saturday, September 19, Roger and Lucila Vargas, both leaders of the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka sa San Isido (NAGKAISA) and active members of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulakan – San Jose Del Monte were ambushed by two suspected gunmen riding a motorcycle in tandem while on their way to Grotto market in Barangay Tungkong Mangga to sell their vegetable produce. The couple were laid to rest yesterday.


“The killing of Ka Roger and Ka Cila by suspected security guards of Singson coupled with the inaction of the Aquino government has emboldened the security guards and private armies of the Aranetas. We fear that the extra-judicial killings are back in Bulacan,” says Flores.


“De Lima and the Aquino government’s failure to stop the killings and dismantle private armies of big landlords and institutions like the Singsons, the Aranetas, the Villars, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, is tantamount to approval of the extra-judicial killings and human rights violations in San Jose Del Monte,” the KMP leader said.


In the morning of September 18, the Vargas couple and other farmers had a confrontation with the security guards of the SUPERB Security Agency led by a certain Rogelio Mariano and introduced themselves as employed by Singson who is claiming ownership of the contested 11-hectare agricultural land in Barangay San Isidro.


The peasant group also got hold of a document bearing the letterhead of the Province of Ilocos Sur dated September 15, 2015 and signed by Singson requesting Barangay (village) San Isidro Chairman Marcial Gannaban “to give assistance to their geodetic engineers and workers to ensure their safety in conducting the clearing, study, and topographic mapping” on the contested agricultural land.


The farmers said that the security guards were insisting to include the land being tilled and occupied by the Vargas couple. #