[Are we really in 2021?] Land grabbing, attacks against farmers continue

The residential and agricultural area being demolished in Sitio Bangad, Barangay General Lim in Orion, Bataan is part of the 33-hectare landholding being grabbed by Federico Pascual, an influential banker, and executive in 12 companies. Pascual was also a former president of the Government Service Insurance Corporation (GSIS).

The disputed land is being tilled by 42 farmer-families, with palay, vegetables, and fruit-bearing trees as their crops. The families have been asserting their rights to the land for over two decades.

According to the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL-KMP), this morning, almost 200 police forces and some 100-man demolition team started destroying the houses of residents and farmers of Sitio Bangad despite the negotiations, and plea from community leaders.

The residents and farmers in the area are former sugarcane plantation workers who started to till the land in the 1990s. The farmers asserted to be part of the government’s CARP but maneuvers by different government agencies disqualified them from being beneficiaries. The relocation site offered to them by dummies of Pascual had no electricity and water connection, and no source of livelihood.

The ongoing demolition is the latest in a series of displacement of farmers and residents in the area. In February 2020, the collective resistance of farmers has succeeded in preventing the attempts of Pascual’s men to demolish and displace the farmers and their families.

Last March 23, 2020, at the height of the lockdown and quarantine in Luzon, farmers were displaced from their farm lots after Pascual ordered the fencing of the disputed land.

According to Zaldy Montemayor, leader of local farmers group Samahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Sitio Bangad, Pascual, who is claiming ownership over the land, wants to sell the land to Sta. Lucia Realty for a lucrative residential project. However, the peasant leader said that upon checking with the Land Registration Authority, no documents could support Pascual’s claim.

According to KMP’s Danilo Ramos, “Just how heartless the land grabbing families of Villar, Yulo, Ayala, Pascuals, can be? A pandemic, widespread joblessness and bankruptcy, and successive typhoons have already ravaged the lives of poor farmers, and yet these landed haciendero-oligarchs continue to violently eject our food security frontliners. Malinaw na kalokohan talaga ang ‘Heal as One’ hangga’t walang sariling lupa ang magsasaka, hangga’t walang tunay na reporma sa lupa sa bansa.”

Pascual is known as an influential banker and powerful businessperson. Aside from being the former President of the GSIS, he is also the President of the Bataan Peninsula State University, a member of the Bureau of Customs Governing Council, chairperson of the San Antonio Resources Inc, and a shareholder Sinagtala Farm Resort and Retreat Park located in Bataan. He also owns shares in several other companies, and formerly held corporate leadership posts at the Philippine National Bank, Allied Banking Corp., and Alabang Country Club. He is a director of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries. ###

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