Church condemns murder of farmer leader

Farmer leader Menelao ‘Melon’ Barcia was the third to be killed in six months in connection with land reform.

May 23 2014, 2:55 PM
Church condemns murder of farmer leader
The assassinated farmer leader Menelao ‘Melon’ Barcia.

The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace (ECSA-JP) of the Bishop’s conference condemned the assassination of farmer leader Menelao ‘Melon’ Barcia on May 2 in Porac of Pampanga province.

Barcia was the third to be killed in six months in connection with land reform. Together with some 300 farmer-families, Barcia demanded the distribution of ‘Hacienda Dolores’ under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Hacienda Dolores in Porac is disputed land that was reclassified stating it was idle land without tenants. The farmer-families, who have been living there since 1835, are fighting for the land their ancestors cleared, farmed and developed. The government claimed their land in 2004 based on the irregular reclassification and was titled to two large private corporations in 2005.

The Church declared solidarity with the small farmers and indigenous peoples fighting for their rightful claim and called on the government to uphold the law and protect the rights of the farmers and Aeta communities in Porac.

“It is saddening and infuriating that another farmer leader was killed for the second time in Hacienda Dolores. Threats and fear continuously surrounds the whole community, while they are still in the process of asserting their land rights amidst the threats and harassment of the contesting landowner,” said the statement signed by Auxiliary Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo of Manila, National Director of NASSA, and Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona of Caceres, Chairman of ECSA-JP.

The farmers are only requesting a portion of the 761.1 hectares of agricultural land in the Hacienda which they have been cultivating for more than 50 years.

“The death of Melon Barcia and Armand Padino (January 2014) who were fighting for the piece of land they were tilling for a long time, only reflects the inability of the Philippine government to protect the landless farmers against wealthy and politically influential landlords. In an apparent attempt to sow fear and dampen the spirits of the poor tillers struggling for their rights, the killing of Barcia is a clear and shameful act of intimidation and violence against the poor and struggling farmers. The fact that it was repeated within a few months reflects impunity on the part of law and justice enforcers,” the statement said.

It demanded that the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights conduct an investigation to identify the perpetrators and masterminds, and bring them to justice.

Source: CBCP News