MANILA, Philippines – Two farmers were injured when armed men fired at their group which had occupied a ranch owned by an alleged supporter of President Benigno Aquino III in Maramag town in Bukidnon.
Mansueto Jocaris sustained a shotgun pellet wound on his arm while Fe Panelo’s face was nearly crushed when one of the gunmen kicked her as she lay on the ground for cover. Both farmers were rushed to a nearby hospital.
“The armed men formed a line, pointed their guns at us and fired,” recalled Erlinda Bacandon of the Nakagawa Dulugon Farmers Association.
Bacandon said more farmers sustained bruises as they tried to take cover from the gunfire.
Around 100 farmers of the farmers' association occupied the 200-hectare ranch owned by the late Roberto Montalvan.
The group said the ranch is now operated by Montalvan’s wife Rosario, an alleged supporter of President Aquino.
Bacandon said Montalvan operated the ranch for the last 25 years under an Agro-Farm Lease Agreement. He said the lease had already expired.
She said 10 men, armed with M16 and M14 rifles, shotguns and pistols, opened fire at their group. The farmers were able to take some photos of the incident while on the ground.
“They just fired and fired their guns. Many of us tripped over the wired fences. We were terrified,” Bacandon said.
The armed men arrived on board a truck hours after the farmers occupied the ranch.
Bacandon said the armed men’s leader told them to leave. When they refused, the men started firing at them.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Triumph Dominic Bagaipo, spokesperson of the Army 4th Infantry Division, said the army will conduct an investigation after the farmers reported that the unidentified leader of the gunmen was wearing a white shirt of the 4th Infantry Division Training Unit based in Camp Bahian, Malaybalay City.