Caritas condemns ‘violent’ dispersal of farmers

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Lower House security officers use water cannons and pepper spray to disperse the farmers gathered at the gates in Congress on Tuesday to call for agrarian reform, May 26, 2015. (Photo: Vincent Go)

MANILA, May 27, 2015— The social action arm of the Catholic Church has denounced the violent dispersal of farmers staging a rally yesterday in front of the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary, said the security officers should have negotiated diplomatically instead of using tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons.

“These poor farmers were unarmed. They are not animals and definitely not criminals. They were only here to demand for what is due to them under the Agrarian Reform Law,” Gariguez said.

The dispersal left 17 farmers hurt, as they called for the completion of and reforms in the implementation of the agrarian reform.

The injured farmers, who came all from different parts of the country, were immediately brought to the East Avenue Medical Center for treatment after suffering eye injuries.

They were also protesting the supposed “pro-landlord amendments” of the Visayan bloc to HB 4296, which aims for additional coverage of lands not yet issued with notices of coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The proposed measure is scheduled to be passed on third and final reading by the Lower House next month.

The protest was part of the farmers’ 17-day march to push for the passage of HB 4296, which seeks to ensure the completion of the government’s land-to-the-tiller program, food security, and broad-based economic development.

Caritas Philippines actively advocates for agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, sustainable agriculture, and women and children’s rights.

“We join the farmers in pressing the Aquino administration, especially the lawmakers to implement asset reform by overhauling the implementation of the CARP and completing the distribution to peasants of all agricultural landholdings nationwide subject to the program,” Gariguez said. (CBCPNews)

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