Due to the request of the labor group PM (Partido Manggagawa), Team Negros met Human Rights Defenders of the farmer organization HASAFAWA (Hacienda Salud Farm Workers Association).The 136 hectare sized Hacienda, near the city of Isabela is planted with sugarcane.
The current landowner, who just inherited it from her late father, is assumed to live somewhere in Costa Rica. The Farmers never met her. It is unknown, if she even knows about her property in the Philippines.Anyhow, the farmers don’t have a problem with her but with the leaseholder, who holds the lease since 1994.
The farmers informed us about Human Rights Violations happening at the farm- it wasn’t the first time, we heard about HRV on the farm. Sadly, nearly one year ago, there had been a murder case most likely related to the actual cases(read more here: http://bit.ly/1R98k9V).
Partido Manggagawa, a labor group founded in 1999, mainly works as a support for farmers in their struggle to obtain their rights in agrarian or labor disputes. Their „dream is a world that gives due importance to the role of the working class and respects the dignity of labor. A social order where the working men and women of the world live together in peace, harmony and progress.“The dispute with the current leaseholder started in September 2013 when the HASAFAWA members requested CARP coverage. One day, armed bodyguards, presumably associated with the leaseholder, told HASAFAWA members to stop making inquiries about the land title. Still the farmers kept up working for their goal.
This demand of the armed bodyguards was the beginning of a series of Human Rights Abuses. The farmers were directly forced by the leaseholder to sign blank papers, which would be filled out later to fit the interests of the leaseholder. Later on, the leaseholder, who was at the same time the employer of the farmers, send them, most likely illegally, a notice of cancellation. The dismissal has been denounced by the farmers and the case is currently in progress.
This wasn’t the end of the harassment against the farmers. Short after the dismissal, the armed security guards of the leaseholder were firing multiple gunshots in the air right next to the farmers houses while the leaseholder himself demanded from the farmers to give up their request for land. As the members of HASAFAWA still refused to cancel their request for a CARP-Title, the management of the farm offered them 500,000 PHP in total for all farmers as a settlement, which is clearly bribery. After they refused the money, the murder happened which is associated with men of the leaseholder. Then the incidents that brought PM to ask IPON to meet with the farmers of HASAFAWA occurred.
On several dates in May and September 2015 the houses of the Human Rights Defenders were demolished by personnel of the leaseholder of the farm. During these enforced destructions, the Human Rights Defenders of HASAFAWA demanded to see the official authorization documents, but got none by the personnel of the leaseholder. Without any legal authorization, the worker could show the owners, they destroyed in total 32 houses on the Hacienda, 30 of the Human Rights Defenders and 2 administrative buildings.
IPON is currently monitoring and observing the case. We already met with serveral puplic authorities to promote the case and to assure the proper handling of the case. We hope our work will lead to justice for the victims of the Human Rights Violations.