University guards to peasants: 'It is our job'

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WITH the ongoing dispute over a contested land between the Poor Landless Agriculture Tillers of Central Mindanao University (Platicmu) peasants and Central Mindanao University (CMU), the university guards asserted that it was their duty to secure the campus premises.

On June 5, 2014, the peasants accused the guards for harassing them as they implemented “Operation Tikad.”

This reported act of harassment continued until June 7 where one of the peasants allegedly got badly wounded in the thigh and two others injured because the guards fired warning shots, said Platicmu president Flordeliza Araneta.
CMU director of security services George Gewan said the Platicmu farmers are not ‘official’ residents of the university because they left around 15 to 20 years ago.


“We were shocked why they came back just last June 1 knowing they had left the lands of CMU several years ago. They immediately put up tents when they arrived and only in the morning of June 2 that we noticed,” Gewan said.

He added, “these lands are cultivated by CMU. We were ready to plant but they suddenly barged [in] and claimed that these are theirs and planted rice on their own.”

Without choice, CMU administration ordered the guards to secure the perimeters, he said.

Between guns and bolos

The incident was reported in Maramag police station on June 7. Its records showed that a Francis Gansan was hit in his right leg by a splinter of a bullet from a shotgun allegedly fired by a guard named Adonis Naduma. Marilou Ganson, a peasant, was allegedly grabbed by her shirt and was pushed.

Gewan refuted the reported incident saying, “they had bolos and they were really willing to get into a bloody fight and we were trying to avoid it. But, palaban jud sila (they were combative).”

“What was worse, they put their children in the frontline making it more difficult for us to let them leave the place,” he added.

In the League of Filipino Students (LFS) – Bukidnon chapter’s Facebook post last June 6, LFS wrote, "there were 18 gunshots heard, which Gewan denied.

“That is not true at all. The guards released only around three to four shots. They were warning shots to be specific […] they released them because they were already surrounded by the farmers holding their bolos. Of course, they (guards) would not wait for themselves to get killed thus the warning shots,” Gewan said.

He furthered that even before the incident, the board of regents of CMU had issued an agreement that farmers can plant in the university premises, but they are not to expand their farming activities.

“But again, in the case of Platicmu, they are not residents of CMU anymore,” he added.

The action

In this paper's interview with Gewan by phone Monday, he said that they have reported it to the police and asked for assistance in guarding the area.

“Until now, the farmers are still there. They are very stubborn and they continue planting. We need a backup so we asked from Maramag police,” he said.

He is now drafting a formal letter to PNP-Maramag for the help.

There are also other peasant groups claiming their lands from the university.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 10, 2014.

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