DAR chief blamed

Lapanday assails Sec. Mariano for the attacks
THE LAPANDAY Foods Corporation (LFC) blamed Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano for the Saturday attacks, which it said will affect “hundreds of employees.”

Currently, seven families residing in five houses inside the Mandug compound were immediately displaced and the local government is considering psychosocial interventions to the women and children in the site.

Around 2 a.m. on Saturday, New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas simultaneously attacked facilities owned by the Lapanday in Mandug, Buhangin District (box and plastic plants), Barangay Pangyan in Calinan District (a ranch) and Bunawan District (a plastic plant).

“Lapanday Foods Corporation strongly condemns the theft of property and the arson of its box and plastic manufacturing plants,” the statement read.

In blaming Mariano, the Lapanday pointed that the DAR secretary “threatened” them last week.

The company, in a statement, said the DAR chief, “who failed in his attempt to install farmers belonging to a breakaway group of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) on lands already registered with Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1), threatened the company for prohibiting him from escorting these farmers and their supporters from various leftist organizations.”

The LFC is tangled in a land feud against farmers-ARBs in Tagum City, Davao del Norte for years now.

“This breakaway group and their supporters were coddled and abetted by the DAR leadership to openly defy the final and executory order of the court,” the statement read.

The LFC statement added that the DAR had no jurisdiction in the Lapanday-occupied property in question.

“The DAR under Mariano‘s leadership has become a tool that causes disruption in productive farm operations that pushed persons to defy laws, inflict injury and damage to even other ARBs and ultimately weaken the economy of the country,” it said.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) nominated Mariano to become the DAR chief when President Rodrigo Duterte offered the leadership of three government agencies to the Reds. Mariano, a member of the House of Representatives for Anakpawis serving from 2004 to 2013, is the chair of the militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

As of press time, the DAR chief has yet to issue a statement on the issue.

The LFC said the attacks would affect “hundreds of employees and their business partners.”

“The burning of the plant will lead to the displacement of hundreds of employees and adversely affect those who have existing businesses with the box and plastic plant. It is they who are now jobless and shall bear the brunt of the consequences of this vicious act,” the company said.

The rebels, according to the company, also carted away mobile phones of their workers, computers and other company properties.

As they were withdrawing from the plant, the attackers set paper and other flammable materials on fire that eventually engulfed the plant.

The company said it will cooperate with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the investigation and urge law enforcement agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will “exert effort to prevent these unidentified elements from further endangering the safety and security of people and inflicting damage to private property.”

Lapanday added it “hopes that perpetrators of this criminal act will all be identified, charged and brought before the criminal justice system.”

However, the army dismissed the claim that the attacks have something to do with the issue between the Lapanday and the Tagum farmers over a 145-hectare land that was previously awarded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1996.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said it was part of the continued extortion activities of the NPA.

Condemning in strongest terms the attacks, both police and military believed that the attacks were meant to embarrass the government as it was staged at a time when the city was scheduled to host important events.

New People’s Army-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez, in a statement, said the attacks “served as punitive action against the Lorenzos for their numerous crimes against agricultural workers, peasants and Lumad.”

Direct victims

At the moment, the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) is taking care of 12 dependents, four of whom are children.

Norman Baloro, CSSDO head in Buhangin district, said the Mandug attack left five houses totally damaged. The houses were home to seven families.

The area, named the rice mill compound, has been the residential site for at least three former workers of Lapanday’s operations in Mandug.

Five of the seven households owned the houses in the area, while two were renters. The fire left an estimated P1.28 million in damage to the homes of the former employees.

“We’re considering psychosocial interventions (to the victims),” Baloro said.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has condemned the incident, saying that the NPA can’t be trusted anymore despite the government extending its hands for peace talks. (with PNA)