THE management of Rancho Montalvan Inc. (RMI) said the harassment allegation of farmers against its security personnel was “simply a brazen attempt by professional squatters to grab a land they intend to sell.”
In a statement, RMI vehemently denied that its security men threatened and harassed the farmers in Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon.
RMI said around 5 a.m. of August 4, security personnel in its ranch in Sitio Dologon discovered a group of around 40 people who cut the fence and entered a secluded spot in the pasture area.
The people were erecting structures within the area and when asked to leave, they allegedly refused and even taunted the security personnel.
The statement said RMI’s security people requested the people twice to vacate the area “only to be rebuffed by them.”
“At 11:45 a.m., the cowboys reported that a cow was being slaughtered near the place where the trespassers were camped. It appeared that more structures were being erected with obvious intent to squat. Their numbers were also increasing, estimated to be about 60. Realizing the escalating potential and actual losses of the ranch, the security personnel decided to act accordingly,” the statement said.
Because of this, the RMI said security personnel and some ranch employees moved to push the trespassers out of the area, initially firing warning shots into the air.
The management denied it ever committed "massacre" as the farmers alleged, reportedly causing trauma to children and elders.
"No one was shot at or injured by any RMI personnel. If there were any injuries, they were probably caused in their speedy exit through the barbed fence and along the rocky trails they took. The Montalvan family and its heirs solely owned the ranch. The area that was squatted on is part of an area managed by RMI under an agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) and is currently being renewed," the statement said.
On Monday, the farmers sought the help of the DENR in solving the issue as they called for the denial of RMI’s application for renewal.
Fe B. Panelo, one of the victims whose father was reportedly arrested and jailed by the management of RMI, said all they want was for RMI to return to them the 63-hectare land RMI had earlier given.
“We went to the farm not to cause distraction but to air our side, hoping to claim our portion of the land. We have settled in the land since 1957, even before the Montalvan ranch existed,” Panelo said.
Maximo O. Dichoso, DENR regional executive director, said the farmers need to establish their actual occupation at the area before they could get a share of land to till.
“Even if the contract is not yet renewed, it is not that easy,” Dichoso said when asked of the probability of denying the renewal of lease contract to Rancho
He added that the government must reclassify first the land since it is still classified as pasture land, and not for residential or agricultural, before the farmers can eventually apply.
“This could be called the win-win solution. If possible, they could have themselves organized and maybe, the government could make the necessary compromise between them,” Dichoso said.