Robredo defends nabbed Tarlac farmers, supporters 

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed support to 93 farmers and their supporters in Tarlac who have been arrested by the police for a “peaceful” land cultivation activity.,She said it was clear that the arrested farmers who participated in the “bungkalan” — a form of protest which involves the collective tilling of the land — were merely calling for genuine land reform.,“While full details are still being determined by authorities, some things are clear: The gathering was peaceful. The farmers had no other purpose but to provide a good life for their families,” she said in a statement on Saturday.,“We are hoping that their rights will be respected; that they will be treated as fellow Filipinos who have dignity; and that there will be a fair and swift resolution of this incident,” Robredo added.,Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Robredo’s running mate in the May elections and an advocate of farmers’ rights, earlier called for the immediate release of those jailed.,“It is not a sin to cultivate the land. We need farmers now more than ever with the looming food crisis, supply shortage, and rising food prices,” he said.,Various groups and advocates have also denounced the arrests, saying that the incident was a form of “harassment and intimidation” by the police.,The farmers were clearing a two-hectare land in Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion town when they were arrested by the police over alleged destruction of property and malicious mischief for supposedly destroying sugarcane planted in the area.,The police said the farmers do not have proper documentation to prove land ownership.,Most of those arrested were set to receive 200 hectares of land that the Catholic Church’s Dominican order gave up for agrarian reform in the town, based on a 1995 decision of the agrarian reform department.,Also arrested were two journalists and nine student journalists who identified themselves as members of the press, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.,