Philippines: Peasant leader gunned down in Quezon by suspected army member

On 25 February, Gilbert Bancat, 32, a coconut farmer and peasant leader in Quezon, was gunned down in Brgy. Camflora, by an unidentified assailant, thought to be a member of the private army of a landlord in the area. The killer is also thought to be a member of the Philippine Army.

The assailants stood five meters from the victim and shot him twice. An elderly bystander, another coconut farmer, Angel Carabot, was also hit. Both were taken to Lucena Hospital, where Bancat was later declared dead. Carabot is still in a critical condition.

Gilbert Bancat was a peasant organiser of the Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Partylist and had taken part in numerous dialogues with the local landowner in an attempt to negotiate a fair share of the land for local farmers who, because they have no title to the land, are unable to get a fair share of the coconut harvest.

Gilbert had been warned that he should stop supporting the farmers because his name was on an army hit list. Prior to the killing there had been reports of unknown men around the hacienda asking for Bancat’s whereabouts. On 23 and 24 February two unknown men on a motorcycle were seen driving around Bancat’s house. The next day he was shot dead.

Brgy. Camflora is situated within the 385-hectare Hacienda Uy in San Andrés town, Quezon province. Tenant farmers plant coconut trees, bananas, root crops, corn and other vegetables. At least 300 families are affected by the landowner’s attempts to circumvent the agrarian reform programme’s reallocation of at least 350 hectares of land in the Hacienda. At least 82 farmers have been tilling this land for more than six years; one of them has been farming in the area since 1954. Yet, for years, they have been unable to obtain an equitable share in the proceeds of the coconut harvest, as they remain landless because of the landowner’s refusal to include the land in the agrarian reform programme.