Land reform activist killed in Bukidnon

Rights group in Kuya village says farmers remain targets of threats, violence, Manila, Philippines

July 18, 2012

A land reform activist in Bukidnon was shot and killed by unknown attackers, the group Human Rights Defenders said today. The victim, 63-year-old Moises Fuentes, leader of the Kuya Christian Farmers Association in Kuya village in Maramag town, was killed on Monday after being shot five times in the chest, the group said. Fuentes’ wife said she saw the attack on her husband, adding that a local radio station had read out a text message they received that included the names of other local activists calling for land reform that have been targeted for killing. The Asian Human Rights Commission and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines today issued appeals for the government to carry out "a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the killing." Fuentes had been the leader of the farmers' organization in the village since 1999 and a member of the Human Rights Defenders. The farmers in Kuya village has advocated for ownership of the land they have been cultivating but failed to file claims to the land when they first occupied it. The former forest area has since been converted into a private ranch. In 2009 with the help of local NGOs, the farmers discovered that 90 hectares of the area had already been declared disposable. They subsequently filed a petition to the Agrarian Reform Office, which granted their claim in 2010. Farmers later left the land after security personnel belonging to the ranch issued threats against them. They returned in December last year with government assistance, but they say threats against them have continued.