Farmers slam police, Boston mayor rights abuses

MORE than a hundred coconut farmers staged a march rally at the Municipal Hall and the Sangguniang Bayan of Boston, Davao Oriental to protest against the local goverment official’s denial of their request to hold a Farmers General Assembly.

The said assembly, aside from holding election for their new sets of officers, aims to discuss their problems on exploitative usury and the low prices of copra products.

Leaders of Nigkahiusa koy Mag-uuma tu Boston (United Farmers of Boston) or NIGKOMB slammed Mayor Rebico Rosit because he denied them the use of a public gymnasium and a permit to hold the assembly.

“We are very disappointed with our Mayor as his declarations show that we were denied of our right to use public facilities and the right to peaceful assembly. It is quite obvious that they are doing everything so that we won’t be able to push through with our activity,” said Ruben Cotic, interim chairman of NIGKOMB.

According to the Mayor himself, the chief of police would not allow the farmers to hold the assembly because they were afraid that the attack that happened to Banay-banay might also happen in Boston,  referring to an NPA raid in 2009 at the Banay-banay Municipal Hall.

“If we were up to anything other than the assembly, it will be to our own personal risk since we were the ones who faced him,” Cotic added.

Cotic further said that this was not the first time that the local goverment denied their request. Last October 2010, they were also banned from holding an assembly while Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) provincial personnel were also harassed by the local police.

Carmelito Colas, chairperson of NIGKOMB- Cauwayanan (a local barangay chapter of NIGKOMB) said that, “Our Barangay Captain, Raul Reyes, has managed to accumulate vast hectares of productive coconut lands out of the proceeds from usurious agreements with local farmers,” Colas said.

According to Colas, “ Barangay Captain Reyes capitalized on the depressed conditions of the poor farmers and lured them into agreeing to pawn their lands. These conditions include: 50-50 share of the gross income, all costs of production are deducted from the farmers’ 50 per cent share; Reyes exclusively purchased the farmers’ copra at ‘special prices’ which generally are at least P10 lower than the buying price at the market, and that the farmers are not allowed to pay the principal amount of their loans through installment or any other arrangement.”

Colas said that this problem, which presently victimizes majority of the farmers in their barangay, would have been one of the prime issues to be tackled during the assembly.

“Farmers, like us, are always tagged, targeted and being accused as supporters of the NPA. We have been seeking support from the local government officials we voted into office last May 2010 but they kept on failing us. Where then are we going to seek support now? We are very disappointed and we intend to expose and seek justice on these violations that the government officials themselves kept on inflicting us,” said Colas.

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