By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Farmers under the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) on Wednesday called for the immediate relief of John Castriciones as Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) after blaming the farmworkers for the death of their members in Sagay City over the weekend.
NSFW secretary-general John Milton Lozande said the DAR chief should “be relieved from his position right away.”
“The DAR secretary’s statements show that he has no right to be the head of the department that supposedly looks out for the interest of poor landless farmers as he was quick to blame the victims who only wanted to stave off hunger,” Lozande said.
He added that Castriciones’ claim that the murdered farmworkers were not agrarian reform beneficiaries denied the fact that the victims have been working on the 75-hectare sugarcane field for three decades and have long petitioned for the land in 2003.
“What Castriciones failed to mention is that DAR, instead of approving the petition of Sagay farmworkers, approved a landowners’ deed of donation in 2004,” Lozande pointed out.
He further claimed that the land was donated by Hacienda Nene owner to “dummy” recipients to keep the land from being covered by the agrarian reform program and distributed to its rightful owners.
These haciendas are protected by private armies often operating under the wing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), Lozande said.
Castriciones earlier cleared the AFP and PNP of any involvement in the death of the nine farmworkers in Sagay City. (Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz)