HERMOSA, Bataan — Congressional and local officials, the Catholic Church and villagers on Monday condemned the killing of a young man and the wounding of two others in a disputed land here Saturday afternoon.
Slain was Jonathan Villete, 26, while wounded from gunshots on the chest and hand was his uncle barangay kagawad Elmer Bautista, Sr., 54 and cousin Elmer Bautista, Jr., 21 who was hit on the leg.
“I strongly condemn the killing of Jonathan,” 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman said while condoling with the family.
She said she was sad for what had happened. “We cannot deny the existence of land disputes, conflicts going on for decades. The duration of this conflict is too long. I am appealing to all concerned government agencies to take a decision and render justice to the CARP farmers in Sumalo.”
The land in question is more than 200 hectares in Barangay Sumalo, Hermosa contested for decades by farmers and the River Forest Development Corp. under the Litton Estate.
Roman called on everyone to reject violence. “I seek justice for Jonathan and the farmers of Sumalo like all residents of Hermosa and Bataan and as a Filipino,” she said.
Hermosa Mayor Jopet Inton said he and the whole of the town and its barangay leaders condole with the family of Jonathan.
“Sinisiguro namin na kami sa Hermosa ay nagkakaisa para kundinahin ang pagpatay at upang ibigay na ang lupa sa lehitimong magsasaka ng Sumalo. Ito’y aming babantayan. Hindi kami titigil hanggang hindi nakakamit ang hustisya ng taga-barangay Sumalo,” the reelected mayor said.
“Buo ang aming pagsuporta sa laban ng mga magsasaka ng Sumalo. Sinimulan na ito at kasama kami hanggang katapusan,” Hermosa parish priest Fr. Tony Quintos said. He said that what happened was worrisome.
“Ang simbahan nilalayon hanggang maaari huwag magkaroon ng away, ng sakitan kundi pairalin ang proseso ng kapayapaan. May suliranin tungkol sa usapin sa lupa pero ang solusyon ay hindi sa paggamit ng dahas.”
The priest said that before he accepted helping the farmers, he talked with experts and lawyers.
“Tiningnan namin ang legal na perspektibo at moral na usapin. Kami ay naniniwala sa ipinaglalaban ng maliliit na magsasaka. Nakita namin ang tibay ng tinutuntungan ng ipinaglalaban ng mga magsasaka,” Quintos said.
He said that records of the church showed that since the 1960s, there were already residents in Sumalo.
“Pwede namang mag-usap hanggang sa katapusan pero bakit hahantong sa pagbuwis ng buhay?,” asked Monsignor Tony Dumaual, former Hermosa parish priest. He said that he knew that residents in Sumalo were there 60 to 70 years ago.
Sumalo barangay secretary Agustin delos Reyes called on the local, provincial and national governments and President Duterte to help them.
“Ito’y nag-ugat sa struggle sa lupa na pinaboran kami ni Presidente Duterte noong January 15,” the secretary said.
Delos Reyes said the Office of the President has ruled that the land in question be reverted to agricultural from industrial and be subjected to land reform but the Litton Estate filed an appeal.
Police Colonel Villamor Tullao, Bataan police director, said the shooting happened after an altercation between a group of residents and security guards who called for backup. Suspect Titanic Mistica, 60, arrived with some security guards.
“Nabaril ni Mistica ang tatlo, isa namatay. Nag-file na kami ng kasong homicide at frustrated homicide laban sa kanya,” he said.
Tullao said the suspect who was hospitalized for fractures after being beaten by villagers is a communication officer of the River Forest Development Corp.
Villagers from Sumalo while waiting for the body of Jonathan in the church carried placards and streamers like “Justice for Jonathan,” “Justice for Sumalo Victims”, “Tuta ni Litton Ipatapon”, Bakod ni Litton Tanggalin Magsasaka Papasukin”, “Kapayapaan No to Violence”.
They chanted “Litton palayasin”, “Justice for Jonathan.”
“Gusto naming mangyari umalis mga tauhan ni Litton. Ang lupa ng Sumalo ay sa amin. Huwag silang mag-angkin, sa amin talaga yon,” resident Maritess Tolentino said, claiming she is already 41 years and was born in Sumalo.
Nita Amon said security guards prevented the delivery of construction materials like sand, hollow blocks and cement that she ordered from a hardware.
“Kailangan daw may clearance sa kanila. Sabi ko bakit sa kanila ako kukuha ng clearance eh may kapitan kami,” the woman said.
The villagers chanting “Justice for Jonathan” followed the hearse bearing the remains of Jonathan to Sumalo where the wake will be held after being blessed by five priests at the Hermosa Church.