Bukidnon peasant leader ‘harassed’ by policemen

A PEASANT leader in Bukidnon was allegedly harassed by eight police officers who tried to arrest him without an arrest warrant Thursday morning, April 12, at Musuan, Maramag town, Bukidnon.

Ireneo Udarbe, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao (KMP) identified the farmer as Jose Benemerito Jr., secretary-general of a farmers group called KASAMA-Bukidnon.

Udarbe said Benemerito was on his way to community activity when 8 men in civilian clothes blocked him and invited him to the police station.

"Gi-atangan siya sa walo ka tawo nga nagpaila nga nga police. Nangutana si Mr. Benemirito sa ila kung aduna ba silay warrant pero wala silay naipakita. They introduced themselves as police officers. But Mr. Benemerito refused to go with them as the police cannot present an arrest warrant," he said.

When the police officers failed to bring him that morning, another two uniformed policemen came back, bringing with them a warrant.

Udarbe said Benemerito was charged with murder and robbery, which he described as trumped up charges. Benemerito again refused to go with the police pointing out that his name in the warrant issued was misspelled.

"Gikondena namo ang pagpangdakop sa mga lider sa mga mag-uuma, ilabina ang pugos nga surrender sa mga masa nga farmers. Nganung sila man ang arestohon nga kini sila nakigbisog raman sa tinuod nga reporma sa yuta ug padayon nga expansion sa mga plantasyon nga naka-displace kanamong mga mag-uuma (We condemn the arrest of farmers leaders, especially the forced surrender of the masses. Why are they the targets of arrests when they are only fighting for the genuine land reform and against the expansion of of plantations which threatens their livelihood)," Udarbe said.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao issued an alert on Thursday, April 12, saying Benemirito was able to evade arbitrary arrest with members of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) who mobbed the arresting military men.

The community also asserted that Benemerito is not a criminal, but a peasant leader instrumental in the struggle for land rights of the BTL farmers, the KMP adds.

According to KMP-NMR, Benemerito is among the 600 names included in the Department of Justice petition for terrorist tag. The 600 names are mostly progressives and critical against the government.
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