Residents of Brgy. Tartaria, Silang, Cavite took to the streets and made a stand for their homes and livelihoods.
Words by Aron Sierva and PB Yapjoco
Samahang Magsasaka ng Tartaria (SAMATA), together with the Ifugao-Muslim Furniture and Pottery Shop Owners Association, cried for justice. This was after an illegal demolition operation along Balibago-Tagaytay Road in Silang, Cavite commenced last July 14.
SAMATA added that over 100 members of the demolition team were present, composed of armed security guards reportedly under Merge Core Security Agency. Elements of Philippine National Police (PNP) Silang and Carmona, carrying high-calibre guns such as rifles and shotguns, also took part in the demolition derby. The crew was believed to have been headed by the local government unit (LGU) from Silang’s municipal engineering office, but SAMATA asserted that the LGU failed to present a Court Demolition Order.
“Hindi makatarungan ang nakaambang demolisyon ngayon, Wala silang pinapakitang court order na kinakailangan. Hindi lang din kabuhayan namin ang apektado dito pati na rin ang pamumuhay namin,” said one owner from the furniture and pottery shop.
According to a Facebook post by peasant alliance Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), over 100 houses and establishments were threatened to be demolished.
The Municipal Government of Silang Engineering Department explained that the reason for demolition was that the owners had no business permit. In response to this, SAMATA emphasized that the owners had tried to apply for a business permit since 2010 and 2011, but the application was either denied or delayed multiple times.
Reflecting on the said oppression and ongoing threats to their land, another unnamed seller said, “Isang dekada na kaming nagha-hanapbuhay dito – hanggang ngayon nararansan namin ang hirap bukod sa hanapbuhay ay yung pandarahas samin ng mga pwersa ng estado at hindi na ito bago samin.”
In an update, last July 15, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite compared the situation in Tartaria to that of Martial Law, with numerous goons carrying police clubs and high-powered guns going around the site. In an exclusive statement sent to the Perspective, SAMATA said that more members of the demolition team arrived in the vicinity, besides those who were present on the day before yesterday.
Even now, armed police officers photographed residents and patrolled the area as the demolitions proceeded.
Despite such threats and harassments, BAYAN – Cavite wrote in a Facebook post, “Wala pa ding malinaw na tugon si Mayor [Corie] Poblete para pakinggan ang panawagan ng mga manininda at magsasaka hinggil [sa demolisyon]. Tila yata walang balak protektahan ng ina ng bayan ng Silang ang kaniyang nasasakupan.”
Serving the interests of the rich
SAMATA asserted that the motive behind the demolition was to serve the business interests of powerful families in the province – namely the clans Aguinaldo, Poblete, and Ayala – who allegedly intend to convert parts of Silang, Cavite into private establishments and subdivisions.
This is despite the fact that Brgy. Tartaria was only “cultivated” when it was evacuated by then-Batangas residents after the 1911 Taal eruption, who were the would-be farmers in the area. However, it was in 1940 when powerful individuals such as the Aguinaldo family reportedly took advantage of the fact that the said land was yet to be applied for a title.
“… noong 1940 [nang] mapag-alaman ng mga Aguinaldo na wala pang titulo ang lupa ay agad nilang inaplayan ng titulo ang lupa at sa katotohanan ay ni mismong Aguinaldo ay hindi alam ang kabuuang laki ng sakop ng lupang Tartaria na nais nilang makamkam,” SAMATA wrote in their Facebok post.
The organization added that Tartaria farmers have experienced a long history of “deceit” from both foreign and local agents who insist on taking the land away from the very farmers who have been said to be cultivating it for decades.
“Dahil sa kawalang kaalaman ng mga tao sa batas ay agad nilang sinamantala kahit nga ang mismong ama ni [Cavite Governor] Jonvic Remulla ay napakalaki ng interes na pagmamay-ari sa lupa sa Tartaria dahil sa napakagandang lokasyon nito noon kaya [siya] mismo noon ay maraming karahasan din ang ginawang pananakot sa mga magsasaka,” SAMATA added.
The organization reminds its members to not be “deceived” by the cash being offered by one “Louie Jimenez” and other head land agents who bribe farmers into selling their land for only P100 for every square meter.
Instead, SAMATA calls for genuine land reform and continuous opposition against illegal demolition.
A long walk to genuine land reform
Following the long history of land-grabbing cases and harassment towards Cavite farmers and shopkeepers in Lupang Aguinaldo, SAMATA calls to fellow farmers and other sectors to be one with their ongoing fight for genuine agrarian reform (READ: Lupang Aguinaldo farmers assert right to land in Peasants’ month).
SAMATA added, “Nakikiisa ang SAMATA sa laban na ito dahil magiging tungtungan [ang demolisyong] ito ng sunod-sunod pang demolisyon sa mga kabahayan sa Brgy. Tartaria, na limang-dekada nang nakikipaglaban para sa karapatan sa lupa na pilit kinakamkam ng pamilya Aguinaldo.”
An unnamed protester had pointed out that demolition and eviction cases such as in Lupang Aguinaldo and Hacienda Yulo hinder the farmers and workers from obtaining their rights to land, gravely threatening their lives. For instance, Hacienda Yulo farmers in Calamba are still picking up the pieces from their houses that were destroyed and burned early this year by Yulo’s and Ayala’s armed goons (READ: More Hacienda Yulo homes ransacked, residents harassed by ‘hired goons’ as farmers hold ground against onslaughts).
The said protester pointed out, “Yung mga security guards, yan [din] yung mga security ang nang-haharas sa mga kasama natin sa Hacienda Yulo.” Responding to the demolition threat, residents of Barangay Tartaria had shouted, “Layas, layas, layas, layas!” towards the armed police and demolition team.
KASAMA-TK also asserted that it is not a “false” Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that will resolve problems concerning land ownership, but a united stand and organized resistance against those who threaten their lives and lines of works.
“Buong lakas na pinagpupugayan at sinusuportahan ng KASAMA-TK ang giting at paninindigan ng mga magsasaka at mamamayan sa Tartaria upang depensahan ang buhay at kabuhayan,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.
SAMATA, KASAMA-TK, and other farmers’ alliances and organizations call for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which will truly uphold farmers’ rights and ensure a legitimate land reform, into law.
In concluding their live coverage of the mobilization that afternoon, SAMATA asserted in a statement, “Ayuda hindi demolisyon! […] Ilantad ang kabulukan ng Municipal Government ng Silang sa pangunguna nila Mayor Corie Poblete sa pagpapahintulot sa [walang] katarungan na demolisyon!”
As of press time, the Cavite local government and Ayala Corporation are yet to respond to the Perspective’s inquiries. [P]
Photos from KASAMA-TK and SAMATA / Facebook
Layout by Patrick Josh Atayde