Alarms are raised as the number of peasant leaders killed rose to 12 this year. The latest incident was recorded in Compostela Valley province where a peasant couple was mercilessly slaughtered inside their residence by unidentified armed men on Thursday, March 2.
Among those who expressed denunciation over the spate of killings was Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Secretary Mariano believes that most of the cases of killings of peasant leaders in the country are connected to land disputes.
The secretary has ordered DAR offices in all of the involved regions to resolve the agrarian disputes in the area.
He also assured farmers that DAR is laying down all appropriate measures to settle the land problems and prevent further injuries and casualties.
The latest case recorded was the killing of couple Leonela Tapdasan Pesadilla, 55 and her husband Ramon Dagaas Pesadilla, 59, residents of Gawad Kalinga Housing Project in Barangay Osmeña, Compostela town, Compostela Valley.
Report from human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao said the Pesadillas were gunned down by two unidentified gunmen who forcibly entered into their residence 9:00 p.m. Thursday.
The couple are members of Compostela Valley Farmers Association (CFA). They also donated a parcel of land for the lumad school SALUGPUNGAN TA TANU IGKANUGON LEARNING CENTER (STTI) in Spur Dos (2), Barangay Ngan, Compostela town.
Both Leonela and Ramon expressed full support and joined the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) in reclaiming the 145-hectare banana plantation from the Lapanday Foods Corp. since December 2016.
But the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said that since January this year, 18 farmers were already killed, as they blamed the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its program “Oplan Kapayapaan” to be responsible to the increase of the number of killings of farmers, activists and lumad leaders.
“Farmers and Lumad who assert genuine land reform are either killed, harassed and vilified,” said KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores in a statement to the media.
Flores also called on the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council and Malacañang to act on the cases of killings of peasant leaders.
“We cannot just go on counting dead bodies. This merciless killing of farmers has to stop,” he pointed out.
Flores particularly asked PARC to look into the killings that are related to the victims’ defense of the land and advocacy for genuine land reform and the AFP’s all-out war declaration and intense military operations.
The group added that based on their documentations, killings of peasant leaders, from February to March, occurred in the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Capiz, Quezon Compostela Valley and North Cotabato.