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Farmers told: Stop land-grabbing

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Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones yesterday reminded farmers to refrain from illegal occupation of privately-owned lands to claim ownership of the property.

Castriciones made the appeal after nine farmers – four men, three women, a boy and a girl – were murdered by unidentified armed men last Saturday night in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
Reports said the tragedy occurred after the victims’ group forcibly occupied the 77-hectare Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Negros Occidental despite warnings from the DAR provincial office not to do so.

The fatalities were members of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers and were not beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

“Illegal occupation of a landholding has become a common practice of some organized farmers’ groups in Negros Occidental,” DAR-Western Visayas (Region 6) Director Stephen Leonidas said. “This is their way of asserting their claims over certain landholdings.”

According to Leonidas, the act of land-grabbing is commonly called “bungkalan” in the region, particularly in Negros Occidental.

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