Boy, 10, Injured in Shooting Targeting Farmers in Southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
181105-PH-land-620.jpg A man holds up a sign during a rally outside a police and military camp in Quezon city, Philippines, to protest the killing of nine farmers in Negros Occidental province, Oct. 22, 2018.
Photo: Benar

Gunmen wounded a 10-year-old boy during an attack on a group of farmers in the southern Philippines on Monday, a tribal spokesman said, days after President Rodrigo Duterte warned that informal settlers occupying open land risked being arrested or shot.

The boy, Aboy Magdaget, was a member of the Lumad tribal community that was cultivating land claimed by a private owner in San Fernando, a town in Bukidnon province, said Raol Kampoan, a spokesman for the indigenous group.

“Around 20 armed security guards arrived at the piece of land collectively cultivated by tribal people to grow rice,” Kampoan said.

“The guards started destroying the seedlings, prompting the Lumad to defend their crops,” he said, adding the boy was shot in his foot and rushed to a hospital where his condition remained unknown.

Police said they were investigating the case. Initial details, such as who owned the land, were not immediately available, although members of the community were said to have occupied the land as part of the Philippine government’s agrarian reform program.

The latest incident came amid an ongoing investigation into the killing of nine farmers in the central town of Sagay two weeks ago. Like the Lumads, the farmers in Sagay, in Negros Occidental province, had occupied farmland identified for redistribution by the government.

The victims were members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) and were cultivating part of a sprawling hacienda that was identified under the agrarian program, the union for agricultural workers said.

“It is important to remember that President Duterte warned farmers on occupying unused and barren lands, threatening to shoot them if they do so,” Kampoan said.

“And with martial law in place in Mindanao, both private and security armed forces are emboldened to carry out  this blatant  and vicious assault on the  Lumad who are just trying to feed their families,” he said.

In 2017, Duterte placed the entire south under military control to defeat Islamic State militants who had taken over the city of Marawi. The government has not lifted martial law a full year after troops defeated the militants, despite calls by rights groups that the ongoing military presence could lead to abuses.

Last week, Duterte warned informal settlers they should stop occupying housing projects or private lands illegally, or risk being shot or arrested.

“If you insist on occupying a place, just like what happened in Bacolod (sic), this time I will order your arrest. And when I order your arrest, the arrest is to bring you to the police station,” Duterte said then, according to a transcript of his speech.

“If you resist violently, quarrel, then my order to my soldiers and policemen is just simply to shoot,” he added.

His comments contrasted sharply with his message to his large, mostly urban poor voting base when he took power two years ago.

Duterte had urged homeless people to occupy empty housing projects in suburbs near Manila, even if housing units were supposed to be allocated to policemen.

The populist move had endeared Duterte further to the political left and the poor.

The Oct. 21 killings of the farmers in Negro Occidental cast a spotlight on how the government has lagged behind in implementing a genuine land reform program. A land reform law has been in place since the 1980s, but big owners and corporations have blocked its implementation.


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