PHILIPPINES: Farm leader wounded in shooting in front of his family

Urgent Appeals Programme: Asian Human Rights Commission
Tuesday 23 January 2007 by LRAN

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a leader of a group of farmers seeking land reform was wounded in a shooting at 6pm on 30 October 2006. The attack on Ronald Ocson (41), president of the Asao Farmers and Residents Association (AFRA), took place almost three weeks after he and his fellow villagers were also violently allegedly attacked by armed goons of an influential landlord in Barangay (village) Lawis, Balasan, Iloilo.

According to the updated information from Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services, Inc. (PARRDS), a coalition of organizations seeking genuine land reform, Ocson was sitting at the entrance of his father’s house when he was fired upon. He was with his 14-year-old daughter Rowena Joy who was inside the house when the shooting incident took place. Rowena Joy was at the window and saw the alleged gunman, who was later identified as Roberto Jordan (or Kasey), shooting her father.

Ocson’s wife Sherlina heard Jordan shouting, "Ngaa, inyo ni duta?!" (Why? is this your land?), before he shot her husband. The Ocson couple had seven children. Immediately after the shooting, police assistance was sought and the wounded victim was taken to the Jesus Colmenares Hospital in Malbog, Balasan for treatment. He suffered gunshot wounds to his leg. The village’s councilwomen, Zenaida dela Cruz, assisted in taking the victim to the hospital. He was later declared out of danger.

The policemen attached to the Balasan Police Station, however, failed to arrest Jordan who immediately fled after the shooting. Police investigation showed that the suspect was drunk when he shot Ocson using a .357 handgun. Based on the victim’s account, he saw Jordan, a certain alias "Kano" and Andres Bedro, in a drinking session for almost 6 hours, earlier that day while he was attending to his rice field. The Bedro family is the influential landlord whom the victim and his organization were in conflict with over a land dispute. Witnesses also confirmed that Jordan is Andres Bedro’s best friend.

It may be recalled that Andres Bedro and his wife Susan Bedro, former vice-mayor of Balasan, filed a civil case docketed as 251-B for Forcible Entry with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against the twenty-one (21) AFRA members before the Carles-Balasan Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC). The filing of charges was prompted by a dispute over an agricultural land supposedly subject of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp). The contested farm lot, the respondents claim, was covered by a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). The CLOA had given the farmer’s their rights to till and harvest its produce.

However, the local court ruled in favor of the Bedro’s petition over land ownership. The court’s decision however was subject for appeal. Under the Carp law, dispute over land reform should have been tried before a Special agrarian court—but in this case the court had issued orders even their jurisdiction to try the case had been in question. The AFRA agrarian reform beneficiaries appealed their case. But the Bedro couple, however, allegedly resorted on using violence and forced to illegally enforce the MCTC’s resolution despite it not being final and executable, and, despite a pending appeal by farmers on the matter.

It was on October 11, 2006, at around 5:30am, when Andres Bedro and his armed goons on board a cargo truck, a pickup and a motorcycle violently raided and attacked the village where AFRA members’ are located. They destroyed the villager’s crops and the rest of their livelihood structures. They likewise harassed and threatened the villagers who were present when the incident happened. (Please see our previous appeals: UA-350-2006 http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/2044/>)

Three days later, on October 14, at 11pm, the house of another villager Johnny Catalan (28-year) was also attacked. It is reported that unidentified men opened fired at their house. No one was hurt during the attack but bullets grazed at the lower wall and window portion of Catalan’s house. Balasan police recovered four .45 caliber empty shells at the crime following an investigation in the area the next day

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the concerned agencies requesting for an independent and impartial investigation into the attempt made on the Ronald Ocson. Appropriate charges must be filed against the alleged suspect, Roberto Jordan. It must also be looked into whether or not the landlord, Andres Bedro, had any involvement into Jordan action. If indeed the attacked is proved to have been planned and targeted, charges must be filed against them in court. Ocson’s family must also be afforded with appropriate security and protection.

To support this appeal, please click:
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/support.php?ua=up-213-2006

Sample letter:

Dear _________,

PHILIPPINES: Farm leader wounded in shooting in front of his family

Name of the victim: Ronald Ocson, president of Asao Farmers and Residents Association (AFRA). He is a resident of Barangay (village) Lawis, Balasan, Iloilo. Alleged perpetrator: Roberto Jordan (or Kasey). He is alleged to be a friend of an influential landlord, Andres Bedro, whom the farmers had in conflict over land dispute. Place of incident: Barangay (village) Lawis, Balasan, Iloilo
Date of incident: October 30, 2006 at 6pm

I write to express my deep concern into the attempt made on the life of Ronald Ocson, president of a farmer’s group seeking genuine land reform, on October 30, 2006 in Barangay (village) Lawis, Balasan, Iloilo.

According to information I have received, Ocson, president of Asao Farmers and Residents Association (AFRA), was with his wife Sherlina and Rowena Joy, when a gunman who was later identified as Roberto Jordan (or Kasey), shot him. He was taken to the hospital by his fellow villagers while the attacker escaped. The victim suffered gunshot wounds to his leg but was declared out of danger. Jordan is believed to be a friend of an influential landlord Andres Bedro whom the victim and his group had in conflict with.

Although there is no proof yet to directly link the Bedros into the attempt made on Ocson’s life but I am deeply concerned that this may have been the case. I have learned that on October 11, 2006, it was also the Bedros who allegedly deployed armed goons and thugs to attack the villagers in the area. They violently attacked and destroyed the villager’s food crops and source of livelihood despite a pending appeal the farmers had regarding the issue of land ownership in court on the matter. The attacked was the result of an on-going dispute.

I therefore urge you to ensure that not only the attacker, Jordan, is thoroughly investigated in this case but also the Bedros. If it is proven that the Bedros are involved in the attempt on Ocson’s life, appropriate charges must be filed again him as well. Please also ensure that appropriate criminal charges are also filed against Jordan and that he must be arrested without delay. The victim and his family must also be afforded with protection and security.

I am deeply concerned of the government’s continuing failure to ensure to arrest the escalating violence and attacks against farmers seeking genuine land reform. I am as well extremely disappointed of the continued attacks by the Bedros against the villagers and the failure of the concerned authorities to prevent this escalating situation. I am deeply concerned that the farmers seeking and asserting their Constitutional rights for a genuine land reform areinstead being targeted for violent attacks.

I therefore urge you to ensure that all means are exhausted to protect the farmers from being violently attacked and harassed. The government, in particular the police, must ensure that these farmers are afforded with adequate protection and security while pursuing their struggle for land reform. These extra-judicial acts by landlord of using armed goons and thugs to attack the villages must be stopped. Appropriate charges must be filed against them if it is proven that they had committed violations.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in this case.

Yours sincerely,


PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Simeon Ganzon
Municipal Mayor
Office of the Mayor
Municipality of Balasan, Province of Iloilo
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 33 397 0804 / 397 0638
Fax: +63 33 397 0542

2. P/Senior Inspector German Garbosa
Chief
Balasan Municipal Police Office (BMPO)
Municipality of Balasan, Province of Iloilo
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 33 397 0167
Fax: +63 33 397 0542

3. Dr. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Email: drpvq@yahoo.com

4. Mrs. Esperanza I. Cabral
Secretary
Department of Social Welfare and Development
3/F DSWD Building, Batasang Pambansa Complex,
Constitution Hills
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 931 7916 / 931 8068
Fax: +63 2 931 8191
Email: eicabral@dswd.gov.ph

5. Director General Oscar Calderon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Email: bluetree73@gmail.com

6. Mr. Ronaldo V. Puno
Secretary
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
¡EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Voice: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
Fax: +63 2 925 0332
Email: rvpuno@dilg.gov.ph

7. Datu Nasser C. Pangandaman, Al Hadj
Secretary
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Eliptical Road, Diliman
Quezon City 1104, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 929 3460 / 930 0380
Fax: +63 2 929 3088
Email: busysquare@yahoo.com

8. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Attn: Melinda Ching Simon
Room 1-040
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS)

9. Mr. Leandro Despouy
UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Attn: Sonia Cronin
Room: 3-060
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9160
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR INDEPENDENCE JUDGES & LAWYERS)

10. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010 ((ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR RIGHT TO FOOD)

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org, mailto:ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/support.php?ua=up-213-2006


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