(Photo courtesy of PNP)

MANILA – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) called on left-leaning groups to stop using farmers for the advancement of their agenda and invited them for a dialogue.

In a press conference on Monday, DAR Secretary Bernie Cruz said that instead of helping the farmers, the groups may even affect the distribution process of lands that the department is currently expediting.

On Thursday, 93 individuals, including farmers, advocates, and students, were arrested at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac. They have been freed after posting bail.

The police report said they were equipped with rotovator, demolished the sugarcane plantation owned by Agriculture Cooperative, and when responding personnel tried to pacify them, became unruly and tried to stop the law enforcers from performing their official duties.

They were charged with malicious mischief, resistance and serious disobedience, and obstruction of justice.

Cruz identified the Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Agrikultura, an organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and other youth and artists group as among the groups behind the farmers.

The farmers, members of the group Makisama Tinang, claimed a Certificate of Land Ownership Award for the 200-hectare disputed land has already been awarded to 236 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries since 1995 but have not been turned over yet.

Nakikiusap kami dito sa ating mga kasamahan, sa ibat ibang grupo, huwag na nating gamitin ‘yung ating mga magsasaka para isulong kung anuman ‘yung agenda natin. Ang kailangan natin magtulung-tulong tayo para masiguro natin na matulungan talaga natin ‘yung mga magsasaka at maging food sufficient 'yung ating bansa (I am appealing to these groups, let’s stop using the farmers to push whatever agenda we have. We need to come together to truly help the farmers and make the country food sufficient),” Cruz said.

Cruz also appealed to Vice President Leni Robredo and other politicians to investigate first before issuing statements.

Robredo said in a statement on Saturday said that the activity at Hacienda Tinang was peaceful until the police came and arrested them.

Ang sinasabi ni VP Robredo dapat hindi ginagawa ng pulis ‘yun, ‘yung mapayapang  pagkilos at ikukulong at huhulihin ‘yung mga magsasaka. Ang sinasabi ko, dapat nag-imbestiga muna sila. Mapayapa ba na sirain mo ‘yung apat na ektaryang tanim? Hindi ‘yun mapayapa. At hindi mapayapa na pinapakialaman ng ibat ibang grupo, ng mga estudyante na walang kinalaman doon, ‘yung ating mga  magsasaka (What VP Robredo was saying was that the police should not be doing that and the arrested farmers were doing a peaceful activity. I said they should investigate first. Is destroying four hectares of land peaceful? No. And it was not peaceful either for groups, students who have nothing to do with the issue, to meddle with the farmers),” Cruz said.

He added that among those who were arrested were foreigners while only 13 were legitimate farmers.

If the group really cares for the marginalized and the farmers, Cruz said they should have reached out to DAR instead of Robredo.

Huwag na tayong magtago tago. Mga makakaliwa talaga ‘yung mga nandoon (Let us not hide [behind those groups]. They were leftists,” Cruz said, saying it was confirmed by former group members.

He called on the left-leaning groups to sit with them, unite and cooperate with the government, saying 50 years of insurgency have not helped the country any. (PNA)