Farmers living in AFP reservation cry foul over red-tagging, harassment

By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/01:52:17pm 07/19/2021


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(Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 7, 2021)


CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Members of a famers’ cooperative living inside a military reservation in Bukidnon cried foul after they were allegedly harassed by state forces.

Julie Soribio, President of Kibaritan Farmers St. Peter Higaonon Tribe Agriculture Cooperative said that their community is living inside a 46,000-hectare military reservation land in Sitio Kibaritan, Barangay Malinao, Kalilangan, Bukidnon.

Camp Kibaritan is under the 4th ID of the Philippine Army as a Battalion Training Facility (BTF) under the direct command of Training and Doctrine command.

President Diosdado Macapagal through Presidential Proclamation 134 created the Camp Kibaritan Miltiary Reservation on July 1963.

The reservation straddles among the towns of Kalilangan, Pangatucan, Talakag in Bukidnon and Wao in Lanao del Sur.

Soribio said that their entire community sits on 195 hectares of land they farmed and till for more than 50 years, but since December 2020, they are unable to go their farms as the army have prohibited them.

Soribio said that their cooperative has at least 200 member-farmers in a community with less than 600 households.

Some of the residents in their community were former military members themselves who chose to live inside the military reservation land.

“Since December 2020, we are unable to enter our farms as the Army prohibits us, sugarcane were destroyed by army,” Soribio said.

Kalilangan municipal councilor Benito Ramos said that the affected farmers sought the help of the municipal government to negotiate with the military to let them attend to their farms, but this turned futile prompting him to seek help from Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr.

“Zubiri has created Taskforce Kibaritan which will meet this month to address the problem,” Ramos said.

“What the army doing is causing anxiety among the farmers, they are causing unnecessary enemy when the government is trying to end insurgency,” Ramos said.

Former Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) chairman Orlando Ravanera said that even as the land being part of the military reservation, the farmers have been there even before the declaration of the reservation.

The CDA is giving assistance to the farmers, as they are a legally registered cooperative under CDA.

“We can say that legally, they are the legitimate settler there. Even before the declaration, their ancestors were already there, by that stay they already accumulated some rights (to the land),” Ravanera said.

He said that in the last two years, these farmers are being harassed by the military and suffered economic losses, as they are unable to farm.

Soribio questioned the military’s moved to fence their community when 195 hectares is just a speck of land inside the vast 46,000 hectares of land.

“Our farms are just a small spot in the vastness of Kibaritan, why do it here? Why not in other places? We are a community here,” Soribio said.

“We cannot go to our farm because we are afraid of the military will shoot us, and will just plant firearms beside our bodies,” Soribio said.

Soribio’s father is a former army soldier who settled inside the reservation.

She and her fellow farmers are relying on the legality of their stay on the strength of the Executive Order 448 issued by then President Corazon Aquino, which orders the acceleration of acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands, pasturelands, fishponds, agro-forestry lands and other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.

The order includes all government reservations or portions thereof, which are suitable for agriculture and no longer needed for the purposes of which the reservations are established.

Aquino, in another EO 407 also ordered government agencies including the Department of National Defense to “execute Deeds of Transfer to the Department of Agrarian Reform and surrender all landholdings, suitable for agriculture including all pertinent ownership documents in their custody, such as the owner's duplicate copy of the certificates of title, tax declarations and other documents necessary to effect the transfer of ownership.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his EO 75 also ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to acquire government-owned lands including reservation for land distribution. EO75 puts portion of these reservations no longer needed for the purpose of its reservation under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Soribio said that prior to seeking help in this city, they were pooling their money so they can rent a vehicle going in this city but the military conducted a patrol telling residents in their community not to give money to Soribio as she is a leftist, essentially red-tagging her.

“We are not rebels, but rebels get a better treatment from the military as they are given land and money when they surrender. We have been here for the last 60 years. We were born here and all we want is to farm peacefully,” Soribio said.


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