Robredo defends arrested farmers, advocates in Tarlac as she seeks swift resolution of case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11) — Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday voiced her solidarity with the nearly 100 arrested farmers and their supporters in Concepcion, Tarlac who have been calling for genuine land reform.

In a statement, Robredo said it was clear the land cultivation activity the farmers were doing in Hacienda Tinang before their arrest was a peaceful event.

“Bagaman tinutukoy pa ang kabuuang detalye, ilang bagay ang malinaw: mapayapa ang naganap na pagtitipon," she said.

"Walang ibang layunin ang mga magsasaka kundi ang magbigay ng maayos na pamumuhay sa kanilang mga pamilya,” Robredo also wrote.

[Translation: While the full details are still being determined, some things are clear: The gathering was peaceful. The farmers had no other purpose but to provide a good life for their families.]

The vice president added that the other land reform advocates, who were also apprehended by police, merely joined to help and show their support.

“Umaasa kaming igagalang ang kanilang karapatang pantao; itatrato sila bilang kapwa Pilipinong may dignidad; at magkakaroon ng makatarungang resolusyon ang insidenteng ito sa lalong madaling panahon,” Robredo said.

[Translation: We are hoping that their rights will be respected; that they will be treated as fellow Filipinos who have dignity; and that there will be fair and swift resolution of this incident.]

Earlier, Senator Kiko Pangilinan – Robredo's running mate in the May elections and a known ally of farmers – called for the immediate release of those jailed.

He also said his lawyers have already offered assistance.

“Hindi kasalanan ang magbungkal ng lupa," Pangilinan stressed. "Higit na kailangan natin ngayon ang mga magsasaka dahil sa napipintong food crisis, o ang kawalan ng supply at pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain."

[Translation: It is not a sin to cultivate land. We need farmers now more than ever with the looming food crisis, supply shortage, and rising food prices.]

On Thursday, authorities arrested over 90 individuals, including farmers whom urban poor group Kadamay said have been struggling to claim the land awarded to them in 1995 by the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Police, for its part, said the farmers do not have proper documentation to prove land ownership.

Two journalists and nine student journalists were also among those nabbed despite identifying themselves as members of the press, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

On Friday night, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said some have been released without charges, while 83 are still behind bars and were charged with malicious mischief and illegal assembly.

The bail was set at ₱39,000 each, which means unless the charges are dropped, over ₱3.2 million is needed for the release of the 83.