Tinang farmers, supporters mull counter-charges over ‘bungkalan’ arrests │ GMA News Online

The 83 Tinang farmers and their advocates are considering filing counter-charges against the Tarlac police for their alleged violent arrest during a ceremonial cultivation of land or “bungkalan.”

During a media forum organized by InfraWatch PH on Saturday, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo member and award-winning poet Angelo Suarez, who was among those arrested, said that among their options was the filing of countersuits and that they were discussing this with their lawyers.

Suarez said they were in discussions with SENTRA or Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo — an organization of lawyers providing free legal service to farmers — on the next steps to be taken concerning the charges filed against them before the Capas, Tarlac Municipal Circuit Trial Court .

“Sila ang pangunahin naming kausap tungkol sa pagfa-file ng counter-charges kasi dinahas kami, naantala ang gawain ng mga magsasaka na naagawan sila ng kabuhayan, apat na araw kaming nakapiit,” he said.

(They are the ones we are talking to regarding the filing of counter-charges because we were harassed, the farmers’ livelihoods were hampered and taken, and we were detained for four days.)

The farmers and their supporters, collectively known as Tinang 83, were arrested last week for “malicious mischief and obstruction of justice” during a “bungkalan” or collective farming activity in Hacienda Tinang to mark the anniversary of the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) law.

The police alleged the accused used a rotovator and demolished the sugarcane plantation owned by the Agriculture Cooperative located in Barangay Tinang.

The police also claimed that they tried to pacify the farmers and advocates, but they allegedly became unruly and tried to obstruct the law enforcers from performing their official duties.

The Tinang 83 refused to enter a plea for the malicious mischief and illegal assembly charges filed against them.

“Tapos na arraignment and an overwhelming majority of the Tinang 83, when asked by the court how they would plea, have manifested, I am being harassed by the state, I refuse to enter a plea,” lawyer Erickson dela Cruz, co-counsel for the Tinang 83, said in a statement.

“The court then entered a plea of ​​not guilty for these accused,” dela Cruz added.

Apart from malicious mischief and illegal assembly, the police filed additional charges – resistance and disobedience, obstruction of justice, and usurpation of real rights – during the arraignment.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) earlier said that the distribution of farm lots to individual farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Tinang covered by the CARP law had been put on hold due to the charges filed against the farmers and their supporters for their cultivation activity.

A collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) had been issued to around 236 Tinang farmers in 1995, but the farmer-beneficiaries have yet to be awarded individual titles to this day. — DVM, GMA News

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