Sara Duterte asked: Why did you condemn NPA attack vs Lapanday but stay silent on firm’s assault on farmers?

May 1, 2017 - 2:15 PM
File photo of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte from Davao City Information Office

(LAST UPDATED – 10:32 p.m./FIRST POSTED – 2:15 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – A farmers’ group affiliated with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has criticized Davao Mayor Sara Duterte for condemning the New People’s Army (NPA)’s recent attack on Lapanday Food Corp. (LFC)’s facilities but failing to do the same against the firm’s alleged armed men who were accused of hurting peasants last year.

“Sara Duterte hardly made noise when Lapanday’s armed goons opened fire and wounded nine unarmed civilian peasants three days after the latter’s land occupation of the land-grabbed Lapanday banana plantation in Tagum City last December,” the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM)-Southern Mindanao Region said in a statement issued Monday, May 1.

PKM was referring to the December 12, 2016 bloody confrontation between LFC’s security personnel and a group of protesting peasants. The farmers attempted to reclaim a 145-hectare plantation in Brgy. Madaum, which they claimed were awarded to them through the government’s agrarian reform program, when they were allegedly greeted with gunshots by LFC guards.

PKM’s spokesperson Restituto Baguer said “It is understandable that” Duterte “views the May 29 NPA’s punitive action in the city as an act of terrorism against the Lorenzos, given that her husband, Atty. Mans Carpio, is a legal counsel of the Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Corp.”

“We can only expect that a GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) local chief executive who has vested interest in the companies of a land-grabbing comprador-landlord to be the latter’s spokesperson and defender,” said Baguer.

PKM also chided Duterte for allegedly supporting the appointment of Supt. Alexander Tagum as Davao City police chief, whom the underground peasant group claimed was “the same fascist police officer who led the massacre of barricading El Niño victims in Kidapawan City in April last year.”

Attack was ‘personal insult’

Last Saturday, April 29, Duterte condemned the NPA’s attack against Lapanday as “acts of terrorism.”

She said the attack was a “personal insult especially” because the Davao City government had been “supportive” of the peace talks between the national government and the NDF.

The Davao mayor criticized the NPA, saying the attack was “committed by a group that pretends to champion social justice and equality.”

She said that with the communist rebels’ “history of carrying out atrocities and its continued penchant for lawlessness and bloodbath, the NPA is an organization that is not worthy of our trust and respect.”

But PKM praised the NPA for defending the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples affected by Lapanday’s alleged land-grabbing activities.

“We are overjoyed that the NPA punished the Lorenzos for oppressing peasants and Lumad who are victims of their direct land-grabbing and exploitative schemes through onerous growership contracts,” said PKM.

On Sunday, April 30, LFC blamed Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano for triggering a chain of events that led to the theft of equipment and burning of its box and plastic manufacturing plants in Barangay Mandug, Davao City on April 29.

In blaming Mariano, the company recalled that last week, the DAR chief, “who failed in his attempt to install farmers belonging to a breakaway group of agrarian reform beneficiaries on lands already registered with Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1, threatened the company for prohibiting him from escorting these farmers and their supporters from various leftist organizations.”

This breakaway group and their supporters, according to Lapanday, “were coddled and abetted by the DAR leadership to openly defy the final and executory order of the court that ruled there was no agrarian dispute and DAR had no jurisdiction on the case.”

Sara responds to critics: Injury of NPA victim is my injury

In a statement issued Monday, Duterte said said she had condemned the attack because of her emotional experience of personally arranging for the treatment of fish vendor Larry Buenafe, who was among the NPA’s victims.

“As Mayor tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of civilians, the injury of Larry is my injury,” the Davao mayor said.

On the allegation that her husband was lawyering for LFC, Duterte said, “My husband and I are separate entities. In fact, we do not discuss the jobs that we chose to do. We just commit to sincerely work and earn money for the benefit of our children.”

On the attacks that took place in Kidapawan and Tagum City, the mayor said those were not her concerns but she said PKM was “correct on one thing” regarding Supt. Tagum.

“I personally made it happen that Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum come in as City Director of the Davao City Police Office, because he stood his ground against you,” Duterte said.

Lapanday farm workers ask help from President Duterte

Meanwhile, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said 200 banana plantation farm workers of LFC in Tagum, Davao del Norte belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc (MARBAI) would camp out near the Palace gate on Mendiola Street in Manila starting Monday, May 1.

KMP said MARBAI would appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to help them reclaim the farmland in Tagum amid LFC’s alleged refusal to recognize and abide by several orders issued by DAR chuef Mariano concerning the installation of farmworkers in the landholding.

“The Lorenzo family of Lapanday are influential in the Davao region and Mindanao. We hope President Duterte can convince them to give up the land that rightfully belongs to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” says Mely Yu, peasant leader of MARBAI.

MARBAI members said they became the beneficiaries of the landholding in 1996 through the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The beneficiaries then entered into a joint agribusiness venture with LFC covering 1,000 hectares of their CARP-awarded land.

But MARBAI said that in 2009, farmers decided against renewing its contract with LFC because it was allegedly “onerous and disadvantageous to farm workers.”

“We want to regain control of the lands. Lapanday promised us better conditions but it was only them who benefited from our daily labor,” the farm workers said.