Over 90 farmers and their supporters arrested in Tarlac, to undergo inquest

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — Authorities arrested at least 93 farmers, peasant rights advocates, and volunteers who took part in an activity related to a land dispute in Hacienda Tinang, Tarlac, the Philippine National Police and organizers said.

Urban poor group Kadamay said the volunteers held a "bungkalan" or land cultivation on Thursday in the hacienda in Concepcion town to show solidarity with the farmers struggling to claim the land they said the Department of Agrarian Reform awarded to them in 1995.

Kadamay said over 20 fully armed police stormed the farm to stop the activity.

Pictures released by police showed red streamers put up by the farmers calling for genuine land reform. A video showed the police and the farmers in a tussle during the arrest, but there were no immediate reports of anyone injured.

Kadamay and rights group Karapatan alleged the arbitrary arrests done with undue force showed the PNP is mobilized to protect the interests of those exerting influence over land that has been granted to the agrarian reform beneficiaries for years.

“Hindi krimen ang pagbubungkal at pagsuporta sa magsasaka. Pinapakita lamang ng PNP kung sino ang tunay niyang kakampi: mga landgrabber at mga opisyal ng agrikultura na sadyang pinagkakait sa magsasaka ang lupang binubungkal nila,” Kadamay Secretary-General Mimi Doringo said in a statement.

[Translation: It is not a crime to cultivate land and support our farmers. The PNP is showing that they are siding with the landgrabbers and agrarian officials who are denying the farmers of their own land.

Tarlac Police public information officer Jenny Tolentino told CNN Philippines the farmers who are claiming a portion of Hacienda Tinang don't have proper papers, saying they do not own the land.

Police claimed they exercised maximum tolerance in dealing with the farmers and volunteers after an agricultural multipurpose cooperative reported the supposedly illegal activity to the authorities.

"Pinapakiusapan sila ng pulis na tumigil muna, sa halip na tumigil, nagkaroon ng gulo at naging unruly sila," Tolentino said.

[Translation: The police asked them to stop. Instead of stopping, they became unruly.]

Police said the 93 arrested individuals are currently detained at the Concepcion Municipal Police Station and awaiting inquest proceedings.

Authorities said they will be slapped with malicious mischief, obstruction of justice, and illegal assembly complaints.