|Police arrest members of the fact finding mission in Tarlac|
The Catholic Church and rights groups have condemned the arrest of an Australian nun, a congressman and nine others investigating land redistribution on a huge sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino in central Luzon.
The group, including Patricia Fox of the Zion sisters, a lawyer representing poor farmers, and left wing opposition Congressman Fernando Hicap, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with illegal assembly, direct assault, trespass and malicious mischief, supporters said.
They were looking into whether poor farmers in the area were coerced into signing agreements on land redistribution, said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the Bishops’ Conference social action secretariat.
“Why are [the police] preventing people who only want to see whether the government is doing its job properly?” he said.
Authorities in the province refused to comment when asked why the members of the mission were arrested.
The regional peasant group Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon reported that police slapped and punched the 11 people who were arrested, leading to a scuffle.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, said that the arrests showed the “state of terror” at the Hacienda Luisita sugar plantation.
The Supreme Court earlier ordered the redistribution of the 6,435-hectare site to about 6,000 farmers.
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