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HomeOpinionJoint Letter-Appeal of Three Archbishops Stops Oppression

Joint Letter-Appeal of Three Archbishops Stops Oppression

Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera 

For stopping harassment, Our Firm Salute to Hon. DND Secretary Teodoro, Jr. 

Golden Journal: 28 May 2006Yuletide... - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro | FacebookNoel Pedregosa - Wikipedia

            Archbishop Tony Ledesma       Archbishop Jose Cabantan         Archbishop Noel Pedregoza

It is so amazing to know that the non-stop harassment and oppression being experienced by some 180 members of the Kibaritan Farmers’ St. Peter Agricultural Cooperative has been recently stopped by no less than the amazing new Secretary of the Department of National Defense, Hon. Sec. Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. after receiving the joint letter-appeal dated 15 January 2024 of three Archbishops namely: Archbishop-Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Jose A. Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro and bishop Noel A. Pedregosa of Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

To quote the letter-appeal: “Over the past years, the small farmers households in Sitio Kibaritan , Bgy. Malinao, Kalilangan Municipality in Bukidnon have been harassed and forcibly pushed out of their farmlands by the claims of a military reservation in their area.

“The 180 farmer-members of the Kibaritan agricultural cooperative, with a total population of 620 persons, have settled and developed their area of 195 hectares (30 farm lots) since 1950’s. They are the children of the soldiers who first came to the area during the resettlement program under President Ramon Magsaysay. They are the actual occupants and tillers long before the proclamation of the military reservation in 1963.

“The Mayor of Kalilangan, Raymon Charl Gamboa, himself a former Chief Legal Officer of DAR, has categorically declared that Sitio Kibaritan has never been part of a military reservation: “Kibaritan has been classified as alienable and disposable and the present occupants have already acquired prior rights. It is so dangerous to convert the Sitio into a military reservation as it is already a community with a chapel, an elementary, and a day-care center.”

“The 195 hectares tilled by the small farmers are less than one percent of the 42,000 hectares claimed by the military reservation! DAR Sec. Conrado Estrella III has also listened to the pleas of the Kibaritan farmers, and assured them that the offices of DAR and DND would look for a satisfactory resolution to this case – which has already resulted in crop destruction and violent harassment of some farmers. Attached is a situationer on the current plight of the Kibaritan farmers.

“The parish priest and other local church leaders have attested to all these circumstances. It is in this light that we ask for your assistance to help resolve this critical human situation that involves the government’s own mandate to assist small farmers in their land tenure and agricultural development claims.” The letter-appeal was signed by the three Archbishops which was coursed through former Secretary Leonardo Montemayor who is presently the National President of the Federation of Free Farmers. Sec. Leony Montemayor also furnished a copy of the letter-appeal to the Honorable Secretary of the DAR, Sec. Conrado M. Estrella III and to Senator Risa Hontiveros who has signified her plan for a Senate Inquiry.

As narrated by their Eminence, what is happening in Sitio Kibaritan is so puzzling as the farmlands that the native-farmers have been tilling for more than 50 years now are being transformed into a military reservation which was categorically belied by the incumbent Hon. Mayor, Atty. Raymon Charl Gamboa, who declared that their farmlands are just” adjacent but never a part of the reservation.” How can that be a military reservation when it has already been a community for several years with a chapel, an elementary school, and a day-care center. So dangerous to declare it as such, as attested by the LGU and agencies of government. But such warning was utterly dis-regarded, thus, three children playing near the school got killed on Good Friday of 2016 by the explosion of an UXO. Presently, the farmers are being harassed and harmed and their crops are being uprooted, thus, they are now living in hunger and poverty. 
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They have been crying that their land is for food and for their livelihood not for war. What puzzled them no end was when they knew recently that no less than USEC of DAR Jeffrey Galan had a meeting with a corporation and military officials inside the camp, signing an agreement to transform the farmers’ farms into massive plantation of hybrid banana. Is corporate globalization being done now through militarization?
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These narrations are just “tip of the iceberg.” The land rights and water rights of the Indigenous Peoples are being violated all over Mindanao, the reason why the Indigenous Peoples are now the poorest of the poor. Every time they will resist, they are either being “red-tagged,” or killed. In fact, since 2016, some 101 chieftains and lady chieftains have been the victims of Extra Judicial Killing (EJKs) but until now, no killer has been arrested. Thus, the Indigenous Peoples are now asking: “KAMI PO BA AY TAO O BASURA?” Indeed, is the enrichment of the oligarchs and powerful corporations means the dispossession and displacement of the poor Indigenous Peoples of their ancestral domain? Where is the rule of law?

They asked, is corporate globalization being pursued now through militarization? This is also happening in nearby municipalities as some 42,265 hectares have been declared as military reservation. When the Indigenous Peoples would stand up for their ancestral domains, they are being “red-tagged.” Why? Perhaps, this questionable development should be known by no less than the Commander-In-Chief himself. It is in this context that thousands of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao have collectively decided to stage soon WALK FOR A CAUSE TO MANILA to serve notice to one and all that they are human beings with dignity and should not be treated as “disposable wastes.”



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