MANILA, Philippines – Communist rebels in the Southern Tagalog region said one of their units seized 40 weapons from security guards stationed at a vast Batangas estate whose ownership is being disputed by farmers and a development firm attributed to tycoon Henry Sy on Sunday, January 29.
In a statement in Filipino released Monday, Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s Melito Glor Command, pointed out that the operation against personnel of Selective Security Agency in Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu “is not covered by the indefinite unilateral cease fire” declared by the rebels alongside that of government in August last year, when formal peace negotiations between the warring parties resumed.
While acknowledging that the action by the Eduardo Dagli Command of the NPA-Batangas was “punitive” in nature, Padilla maintained that it was part of the rebels’ “active defense” stance because “Sy has been using the armed goons to terrorize the farmers by firing their weapons and preventing them from farming the lands they have been tilling for a long time.”
Barangay Papaya lies within the 8,650-hectare Hacienda Looc, parts of which are being claimed by the fishing community and farmers who had been awarded certificates of land ownership in the early 1990s, only to have these canceled by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Furthermore, it was added, DAR allowed the conversion and development of the disputed estate into a residential, commercial and leisure complex by Manila Southcoast Development Corp. and Fil-Estate Properties Inc.
Since then, the farmers, mostly affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, have complained of human rights violations, both by the military and what they call “hired goons” of the two firms.
A copy of the resolution calling for a congressional inquiry into the Looc problem filed in the 16rth Congress by then Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap described Selective Security as having been retained by MSDC.
In the statement, Padilla said Sunday’s disarming of the Selective Security guards “serves as a warning to all abusive, tyrannical and despotic landlords and warlords who use their influence and connections in the military bureaucracy and the reactionary ruling class under the Duterte regime.”
He also warned that the NPA “will continue punishing abusive class enemies such as despotic landlords, land grabbers, (those who engage in) destructive mining, environmental degradation and other similar acts.”