PHILIPPINES: Police arbitrarily detained protesting farmers and filed legally incoherent charges against them


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-071-2010
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Child rights, Freedom of assembly, Human rights defenders, Inhuman & degrading treatment,

Dear Friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that 11 farmers, including four minors, were arbitrarily detained. Legally non-existent charges have been laid against them after the policemen arrested them. The farmers were requesting the landowner’s representative, who had come together with the policemen in Calamba City, Laguna to refrain from entering the contested property. This action was pending against the exemption of the land to agrarian reform. But they were ignored. Furthermore, the police and the landowners’ representative had them dispersed and arrested. 


On May 21, 2010, about 8:30am the farmers and their children were at their makeshift tent that they built in Sitio (subsection of the village) Buntog, Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna. The farmers were camping in the area since April 5, 2010, to protest against the cutting down of coconut trees in the coconut plantation of the Hacienda Yulo in which they were cultivating. 

Cutting down of the coconut trees is seen by the farmers as part of the landowners’ action to implement the conversion of the contested farm land for residential, industrial and commercial purposes. This would allow them to construct an expensive housing subdivision. These protesting farmers depend on the coconut plantation for their livelihood.

On the day of the incident, the farmers were positioned at the main road entrance to Sitio when land surveyors arrived. They were led by Dan Calvo, an architect connected to Jose Yulo Architect & Associates, Laguna Estate Development Corporation and San Cristobal Realty Corporation, owned by the Yulos. In their company were at least 20 private security guards, a composite team of about 30 members of the Special Weapons and Army Tactics (SWAT), policemen from the Calamba City Police Station and the Police Regional Office of the Philippine National Police (PRO-PNP).

One of the witnesses, Axel Pinpin, secretary general of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) (Federation of Peasant Organisations in Southern Tagalog), witnessed that the farmers wanted to negotiate with Calvo. However, he ignored their wishes. Instead he displayed outright arrogant behavior toward them and had them arrested. 

When the farmers were presenting their petition to Calvo, which was the impending petition before the Office of the President (OP), asking for the revocation of the questionable order of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) issued in 1992, he refused to honor it. The DAR had earlier issued an order exempting the Hacienda Yulo from distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to the landless farmers. 

During the negotiation, policemen and private security guards escorting Calvo, were all carrying long firearms. They allegedly began violently pushing the residents away and subsequently arrested the protesting farmers one after another. 

When interviewed, Axel said of what he had witnessed: “He (Calvo) was very hostile, cursing the farmers. He refused to negotiate with us. The farmers presented legal documents but Calvo tore-up the papers. The farmers refused to leave and that’s when the police and security guards started using force (sic).” 

Those arrested and taken to a Calamba City Police Station were Maria Garcia, 39 years old; Dorotea Mangubat, 46; Annabel Natanauan, 28; Mario Mangubat, 36; Gilbert Caraan, 25; Lamberto Caraan, 40 and the 71-year-old elderly, Francisca Mangubat. 

Also arrested with them were the four minors, namely Roger Nidia, 16; Reyson Jeffrey De Leon, 15; Melvin Natanauan, 16 and Jorge Mangubat, 12. Jorge is the grandson of Franscisca; Reyson Jeffrey and Melvin were sons of farmers Wilfredo and Reynaldo respectively. 

The four minors were taken into the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). However, instead of having them excluded from criminal liability because they were minors, they were included as respondents with the adults. Charges included violation of Article 148, for Direct Assaults; Article 155, for Alarms and Scandals; and Article 286, for Grave Coercions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). 

All of them were temporarily released on May 25 after posting a bail of Php6,500 (USD 140) and processing fee Php1,500 (USD 32). 

A Complaint-Affidavit was submitted by the police to the court. It did not contain information or allegations as to the acts the farmers committed against the offense of Grave Coercion and Alarms and Scandal as required under the RPC. Firstly, the policemen were unable to prove sufficiently that “violence” had indeed been used to “prevent (them) from doing something not prohibited by law to justify Grave Coercion; secondly, nothing in their statement contains acts that would justify that they had committed “Alarms and Scandal”. 

Also, one of the charges the police and prosecutors filed against the farmers is, “serious resistance and disobedience.” Although they do not exist in the RPC, they nevertheless pursued prosecuting them over this legally incoherent charges and non-existent offense. Therefore, apart from the three charges mentioned above, the detention of all the accused over these legally non-existent charges has been arbitrary. 

The inclusion of the 71-year-old elderly, Francisca and the four minors in these charges is also questionable. In the same police statement, Francisca’s inclusion in the charge was simply because the police saw her walking to and fro along the road where the policemen and farmers were also present while the minors were sitting in the middle of the road. None of their actions could have justified the filing of charges mentioned above. 


The farmers, who are among the 400 families of farmers living in the area, depend for their subsistence on the coconut plantation. The plantation is only about five to seven percent of the total 7,100 hectares of land of the Hacienda Yulo owned by the influential Yulo family, one of the country’s influential landlords. 

In 1993 the Hacienda Yulo was exempted from distribution. At the time, the municipal mayor Jesus Miguel Yulo, the son of the owner and the zoning administrator – all had connections with the Yulo family. They allegedly abused their authority, using their influence to convert the land for industrial usage, to ensure that it would be exempt from distribution. For more details please read: Farmers run against landlords 

The farmers in this case have already filed a petition before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudicatory Board (DARAB) opposing the conversion of the land. 


Under section 6 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (Republic Act 9344), children who are below 15 years of age should have been “exempt[ed] from criminal liability”. Though those above 15 years old but below 18 could be criminally liable, but in order for the prosecution to proceed, the prosecutors and the police must establish that the child has “acted with discernment” in committing the offense; 

SEC. 6. Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility. – A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act. 

A child above fifteen (15) years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act. 

Therefore, continued prosecution of these four minors together with the adults, is contrary to the law. None of the requirements mentioned above have been complied with or observed. The two children, 15 and 12 years old, remain included in the charges ,while the other two, both 16 years of age, have not undergone thorough assessment to establish whether or not they had “acted with discernment” that would allow continuing the prosecution. 

The AHRC is gravely concerned by the continuing prosecution of these four children. It calls upon the government, in particular the prosecutors handling the case, to have the charges against these four children withdrawn according to the law. 

Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking for their immediate intervention regarding this case. The charges filed against the farmers and the four minors must be withdrawn unconditionally because they are legally incoherent and lack legal justifications. 

The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear _________, 

PHILIPPINES: Police arbitrarily detained protesting farmers and filed legally incoherent charges against them 

Name of victims
1. Maria Garcia, 39 years old 
2. Dorotea Mangubat, 46 
3. Annabel Natanauan, 28 
4. Francisca Mangubat, 71 
5. Mario Mangubat, 36 
6. Gilbert Caraan, 25 
7. Lamberto Caraan, 40 
Names of the four minor victims
1. Roger Nidia, 16 
2. Reyson Jeffrey De Leon, 15 
3. Melvin Natanauan, 16 
4. Jorge Mangubat, 12 
Names of wounded victims but not included in the charges:
1. John David Villalon, 24 
2. Enrique Tejada, 22 
Alleged perpetrators: About 30 members attached to the Special Weapons and Army Tactics (SWAT), Calamba City Police Station (CCPO) and the Police Regional Office (PRO) of the Philippines National Police (PNP); and Dan Calvo, an architect who is attached to the landowner, hacienda Yulo; and at least 20 of their private security guards. 
Date of incident: May 21, 2010 
Place of incident: Sitio Buntog, Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City, Laguna 

I am writing to draw your attention to the arbitrary detention and the subsequent filing of legally incoherent charges against the 11 farmers, four of them minors, whom the police arrested on May 21, 2010. 

The 11 farmers, whose names are mentioned above, were among the over 400 families of farmers who are cultivating the coconut plantation of the Hacienda Yulo, a huge farmland owned by local influential elite. At the time of their arrest, the farmers built a makeshift tent and camped out at the main road going to the plantation to prevent the continuing cutting down of coconut trees in the plantation where they are cultivating. 

The farmers depend on the plantation as their means of subsistence. In the early 1990s, when the farmland had been approved, by a questionable process of conversion, from agricultural to residential, industrial and commercial use, the farmers have been enduring continuing threats of losing the farmland and their means of livelihood. The farmers strongly believe that the cutting down of coconut trees has been part of a continuing action by the landowner. This action would allow them to implement, in full, the conversion of land in order to construct an expensive housing subdivision on the contested land. 

When Dan Calvo, a representative of the Yulo family, arrived in the area on the same day, he out-rightly ignored the farmer’s request for dialogue. The farmers had since filed a petition before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudicatory Board (DARAB) to revoke the order of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) exempting the Yulo’s property from distribution to the landless farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Calvo, even after the farmers showed him the documents of their pending petition, refused to honor the document and tore it up in open view of police and farmers alike. 

It is alleged that the refusal of the Yulo’s representative to have a discussion with the farmers had provoked the conflict and commotion between the police and the protesting farmers. The police also used violence in pushing the farmers away and dispersing them. But in the end, they arrested them one after another. Two of the farmers, whose names are mentioned above, suffered injuries as a result of the commotion. 

The investigation report by the police before the local court, accuses all the respondents for committing charges of “Grave Coercion, Direct Assault, Alarm and Scandal and Serious Resistance and Disobedience” of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). 

In their sworn statement and investigation report, the police were unable to justify their charges by providing information that “violence” has indeed been used to “prevent (them) from doing something not prohibited by law” as required by the RPC. The charges of “serious resistance and disobedience” are offenses that do not exist in the list of criminal offenses under the RPC but they nevertheless pursued in prosecuting them using these claims. 

The inclusion of the four minors, whose names are mentioned as respondents to the charges is contrary to the existing provision of the law, section 6 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (Republic Act 9344), which should have exempted children in conflict with the law who are 15 years old and below from criminal liability. 

Under the same law, children who are 15 years old above but below 18 could be held criminally accountable. However, the law strictly required that it should be proven first that the child had “acted with discernment” in committing the offenses. Police and Prosecutors in the case failed to adequately establish this. When the four minors were arrested and subsequently detained, it was done in the same manner to that of the other adult offenders. 

The inclusion of the four minors in the charges lack legal justifications. There is nothing in the police statement that could have justified the acts committed by the four minors according to what they had been charged. In the police sworn statement, the minors and the elderly woman, Francisca, were at the time simply sitting and walking respectively in the middle of the road going to the coconut plantation. Nothing in their statement had contained any sufficient evidence that could have justified the filing of charges mentioned above against the elderly and the four minors. 

I therefore urge your intervention to have the charges against the farmers and the four minor withdrawn unconditionally. The reason being, that they are legally incoherent and lacking legal justification to allow the prosecution of the case to go forward. An investigation should also be conducted to determined whether or not the police, during the performance of their duties, had abused their authority in arresting, detaining and filing charges against the farmers. 

I trust that you take prompt action on this matter. 

Yours sincerely, 


1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 
Republic of the Philippines 
Malacanang Palace 
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel 
Manila 1005 
Fax: +63 2 736 1010 
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80 

2. Ms. Leila De Lima 
Commission on Human Rights 
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue 
U.P. Complex, Diliman 
Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2 929 0102 
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188 

3. Deputy Director General Jesus A. Verzosa 
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP) 
Camp General Rafael Crame 
Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2724 8763 
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763 

4. Mr. Alberto Agra 
Acting Secretary 
Department of Justice (DoJ) 
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura 
1004 Manila 
Fax: +63 2 521 1614 

5. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez 
Deputy Ombudsman 
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military 
and Other Law Enforcement Offices 
3rd Floor, Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman 
1104 Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2 926 8747 
Tel: +63 2 926 9032 

6. Datu Nasser C. Pangandaman, Al Hadj 
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) 
Eliptical Road, Diliman 
Quezon City 1104, Metro Manila 
Fax: +63 2 929 3088 
Tel: +63 2 929 3460 / 930 0380 

7. Mrs. Celia Capadocia-Yangco
Acting Secretary
Department of Social Welfare and Development
DSWD Bldg., Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex,
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 931 8191 / 931 8068
Telefax: +63 2 931 8191

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (