The Philippine National Police in Siaton, Negros Oriental, said it had not received any orders to dismantle the hundreds of alleged illegal “barong-barong” or makeshift huts, at a contested property in Barangay Napacao in that town where four farmers were killed and another was wounded last week.
Siaton police chief Insp. Rafael Lorenz Serion said Tuesday that those who built structures did not have the authority to build them according to the Department of Agrarian Reform.
The makeshift structures had been there for several months after alleged illegal settlers, claiming to be petitioners for inclusion in an ongoing dispute over land owned by Don Gaspar Vicente, settled there, the police chief said.
The Vicente property has been covered by the DAR’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, portions of which have already been awarded through Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to regular farm workers.
The ongoing dispute had led to the bloody murders of four farmers, three of them female, and the wounding of another in Barangay Napacao last week, after the supposed petitioners harvested sugarcane in the disputed land.
The police chiefsaid a memorandum from the DAR municipal office in Siaton on the “accomplishment report on the endorsement for petition of cancellation” showed that the agency saying that “there are no grounds or legal basis” for the petitioners to occupy the subject landholdings.
Only the CLOA awardees, and in this case only 21 of them, have the right to occupy the said land, he added.
Serion said there are at least 200 houses/huts made of light materials on the land occupied by non-CLOA holders.
But hesaid that while these are supposedly illegal, they cannot just dismantle them unless authorized by “higher headquarters.”
In the meantime, the Siaton police is conducting regular patrols at the disputed landholdings in Napacao, but outside of the private property to defuse the tension there, Serion said.
The CLOA holders had requested for police assistance, claimed that the petitioners and the other “claimants” are threatening them.
On Feb. 21, security guards of the landholdings allegedly shot and killed farmers Jessebel Amantillo Abayle, 34; Carmelina Garingo Amantillo, 57; Consolacion Esparcia Cadevida, 66, all residents of Sitio Bondo, Barangay Napacao in Siaton; and Felimon Torres Molero, 66, resident of Sitio Salngan, Barangay Mayabon in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.
Also wounded in that incident was another farmer, identified as Lito Prudencia de Jesus, 28, of Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton.
Security guards Roswil Cero Antanoy, 29, of Barangay Cabang, Jimalalud; Edilberto Torres Pancho, 41, of Barangay San Jose, Tanjay City; Reynante Baylon Rubia, 36, of Barangay Maluay, Zamboanguita; Nelcher Abril Abordo, 24, of Barangay Malabuhan, Siaton; and Jason Torres Ramos, 31, a resident of Sitio Bondo, Barangay Napacao also in Siaton, all in Negros Oriental have been charged in court with multiple murder and frustrated murder.
They claim to be security guards of the Nico Security Agency, with a local office address at Cangmating, Sibulan in Negros Oriental, assigned at the CARP-covered property of Don Gaspar Vicente in Napacao.
Of the five, only one appears to have a legitimate license as a security guard, while the others could not present proper documents, police investigation showed.
The preliminary investigation has been set for March 6, 2018 at the office of Fiscal Joanne Marie Abada, said Serion.
The suspects are now detained at the Siaton Police Station after they signed a waiver to be held under police custody pending the proceedings of the preliminary investigation.*PNA
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