Tartaria farmers defend community despite assaults, arson from armed security

By JUSTIN UMALI
Bulatlat.com

SAN PABLO CITY, Laguna – Despite repeated attempts by armed security forces to dislodge them and erect a barricade, farmers in barangay Tartaria, Silang, Cavite province continue to assert their rights to the land.

Tensions in the peasant community of Lupang Tartaria flared up starting April 16 when armed security forces from Jarton Security Agency, Inc. began threatening to erect a barricade around the vicinity. In response, the farmers erected their own fence and set up a protest camp.

Local organization Samahan ng Magsasaka at Mamamayan ng Tartaria (SAMATA) led the defense efforts with support from peasant rights federation Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK).

According to KASAMA-TK, the Jarton Security agents were hired by the Aguinaldo clan under Emilio “Orange” Aguinaldo IV, in connivance with real estate conglomerate Ayala Land, Inc. “The overt land-grabbing by the Ayala-Aguinaldo tandem is not new to Tartaria’s six decades of struggle,” the organization said in its statement.

SAMATA claims that Jarton Security had “no right to erect any fence” in Tartaria as the agency had no permit from the Silang Municipal Engineering Office. “We [were] waiting on a dialogue with the [local government of Silang],” said SAMATA Chairperson Jerry Luna. “But these goons instead decided to assault us in the dead of the night.”

On April 20, at least 60 Jarton Security agents assaulted the protest camp at approximately 2:00 a.m., forcibly pushing out the people inside and taking their belongings. Over a hundred items were seized, including iPad, cameras, camera lenses and backpacks. Equipment of a photojournalist covering the protest camp were also taken by the security guards.

Reports from SAMATA stated that the security personnel then proceeded to burn down the protest camp. Nine locals were injured, with five needing to be rushed to the hospital for medical assistance.

A second wave of violence erupted at 1:30 p.m. when the guards attempted to continue construction of the security barricade, injuring five. Two residents were wounded when guards and hired construction teams hit them with corrugated GI sheets.

Both the local government of Silang and the Silang police responded to the violence by holding a dialogue and expressing their support to the farmers. However, SAMATA claims that the support has so far been empty.

The PNP’s Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies, which is responsible for private security firms, has stated that it will begin an investigation on the matter while reprimanding Jarton Security agents to “follow standard operating procedure.” SAMATA however has stated that SOSIA was unable to do anything about the stolen belongings.

Likewise, SAMATA has said that Silang Mayor Kevin Anarna was “ineffectual in actually doing anything for us.” Anarna was recently suspended as Mayor by the Office of the Ombudsman over budget anomalies.

Other groups have come out in support of the Tartaria farmers. Artists’ group Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo said that the farmers in Tartaria have a “historical, moral, and legal” right to the land which their families have lived in for “at least four generations.” Kabataan Party-list condemned the presence of armed security in the area, stating that it “endangers the safety and peace of the community.” KPL noted that the armed officers were “less than 10 meters away from the residents and supporters.”

The Commission on Human Rights also stepped in and ordered Jarton Security to appear in a committee hearing led by the Silang LGU, April 25. So far, no decisions have been made regarding Jarton’s presence in the area.

Tensions in Tartaria are currently at a standstill. Local residents have set up a shifting system to man the barricades and monitor any Jarton activity. Meanwhile, there are reports of increased police presence in the area, including drones being flown overhead during the day.

Lupang Tartaria is part of a 200-hectare stretch of land being claimed by the Aguinaldo clan in Silang and Tagaytay municipalities, known colloquially as Lupang Aguinaldo. The Aguinaldos have laid their claim to the land since 1940. Residents of Tartaria, however, have asserted that their residence predates the Aguinaldo clan’s claims: according to them, their families first migrated to Tartaria in the aftermath of the Taal volcano eruption in 1911.

SAMATA was first established as a local organization in 1978 to counteract attempts at land-grabbing. Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Lupang Tartaria was ordered to be distributed to 137 farmer-beneficiaries and their families. However, attempts by the Aguinaldo clan to overturn the decision resulted in the Department of Agrarian Reform declaring Lupang Tartaria to be CARP-exempt during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos.

In recent years, Emilio “Orange” Aguinaldo IV, great-grandson of Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo, has been asserting his claims to the land by employing demolition teams reinforced by armed security. In 2021, Aguinaldo IV employed some 100 people in an attempt to demolish local vendors and push out Tartaria’s residents. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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