Police, farmers clash as demolition resumes-A A +A
Thursday, September 4, 2014
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Farmers' woes persist as they attempt to stop the resumption of the demolition operations at a 130-hectare farmland in Barangay Maimpis here.
Clashes erupted between the Maimpis farmers and the Pampanga Police Provincial Office (PPO) personnel during the demolition of the disputed land with enraged farmers blocking the demolition equipment and the police attempting to suppress the disorder.
The said demolition started last July 2014, which was followed by a series of shooting incidents that injured several farmers here.
Before the recommencement of the writ of demolition, a standoff took place between the farmers, demolition team, police, and the security guards of Aaron Eagle Security and Investigation Agency Inc., which replaced the Great Star Security Services Inc.
Arriving in the demolition site in Maimpis accompanied by at least 150 police, the demolition workers were met with outrage from the farmers.
It took several hours before the onset of the backhoes, bulldozers, and graders because of the different delaying tactics conducted by the farmers.
"We will fight for our rights as farmers," said farmer Joner Quiambao who lay down near a backhoe in an attempt to stop it from moving forward.
Meanwhile, Virginia Manalo presented the police a handkerchief with an image of Jesus Christ. Manalo believed that God can help them withstand the challenges confronting them.
"Only God above knows what will happen to us. Please save us! God is our last hope against these people who are throwing us away. We have no place to go!" said Manalo.
Not the end
In order to stop the farmers from blocking the heavy demolition equipment, the police and security guards then intervened using their riot shields, helmets, and batons.
The efforts of the police, however, did not stop the farmers from halting the demolition as even female residents of Maimpis joined the furious protesters.
The police immediately asked the women to move out of the bulldozers before carrying them away from the demolition site.
Realizing that they can only do so much to stop the demolition, the farmers then went to the drivers of the backhoes to convince them to cease from demolishing the farmland. The demolition team temporarily retreated from the demolition site.
"I am bothered by my conscience and I also don’t want anything bad to happen to their families," said Ricky Cruz of the demolition team, adding that he sympathizes with the farmers.
The demolition team, nevertheless, resumed the demolition operations after a while.
Sheriff Angelito Domingo said Thursday's event was part of a series of demolition operations, which will be performed across the 130-hectare farmland.
"The farmers threw rocks at one of the drivers and they are also climbing on the heavy equipment that’s why we failed to fully implement the writ of demolition today. We will still continue the demolition because there is still a lot of work to do in the boundaries. There are still residents there even after receiving the notice,” explained Sheriff Domingo.
No human rights violations
Following the said standoff, the city police arrested two farmers for "obstruction of justice" over authorities’ failure to implement the writ of demolition.
Farmers Noel Manalo and Quiambao were taken to the City of San Fernando police station, as authorities had no other way to prevent them from halting the demolition.
Police Superintendent Rechie Duldulao, chief of city police, assured the public that no human rights were violated during the demolition.
"In fact, we talked to the farmers and asked them to follow the court's order. But as you know they have a long-standing claim on this land and we also cannot deny that. The police, however, are mandated to help Sheriff Angelo Domingo to implement the writ of demolition. But we are only limited to maintaining peace, ensuring that no one gets hurt," said Duldulao.
Representatives from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Central Luzon Office also arrived at the site to observe demolition operations.
The CHR representatives said they did not see anything wrong with the action undertaken by the police, security guards, and the demolition team.
Domingo, who headed the police team, also got "negative remarks" from the farmers, but emphasized that the police is only fulfilling its responsibility to follow the rule of law.
“The farmers are falsely claiming that the claimant paid me to ensure the resumption of the demolition. But I told them that this is just part of my job and I need to implement the court order. I hope they will also consider asking the landowner for any possible assistance,” said Domingo.
For their part, the farmers once again called upon the attention of lawyer Eligio Mallari.
"I hope the operators will not take away our rights!" Manalo said.
Earlier, Mallari and his counsels issued statements saying the farmers have "zero rights" to stop the implementation of the writ of demolition as the proper court has reiterated its decision in favor of the spouses Mallari.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 05, 2014.