Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Land Dispute Led to Zambales Killing - Anakpawis

A land dispute over a quarrying operation may have led to the March 20 ambush here that nearly killed Zambales Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) coordinator Amante Abelon and caused the death of his 35-year old wife, Agnes, and five-year old son, Ervy John.

by A. Mangampo Ociones
Gitnang Luson News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

San Marcelino, Zambales (153 kms. north of Manila)– A land dispute over a quarrying operation may have led to the March 20 ambush here that nearly killed party-list Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) coordinator for Zambales Amante Abelon and caused the death of his wife and five-year old son.

Abelon’s wife, Agnes, 35, and their son Ervy John, 5, were killed in Sitio (sub-village) Mawaw, Barangay (village) San Pablo, Castillejos, Zambales after being shot in the head.

Abelon, 42, a village councilor in nearby San Rafael, San Marcelino town and vice chairperson of the Zambales chapter of the militant peasant group Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) was on board a motorcycle along with his wife and son when waylaid by still unidentified assailants.

Local police authorities said Abelon recognized one of the assailants as an army agent. But military officials quickly brushed aside the allegation and told media to wait and “let the police do their job.”

Amante’s father, Severino Abelon, incumbent councilor and former vice mayor of San Marcelino told a fact finding mission led by KARAPATAN-Central Luzon March 21 that his son was popular and was involved in helping farmers with land problems throughout the province.

“Maraming naiinggit o nagagalit sa pagtulong niya at ito marahil ang dahilan ng kanyang pagkamatay,” (Many are envious or angry because my son was helping people and this may have led to his death), the elder Abelon told GLNS.


A community organizer who requested anonymity told the fact-finding mission team that Abelon is presently helping some farmers who were allegedly victims of land grabbing and who were displaced from their farms by a quarrying operation in Sitio Mamaw, Barangay San Pablo Castillejos town.

The quarry sits on a 250-ha. land that was covered by lahar and sand deposits from the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

It started in 2005 and is operated jointly by former San Marcelino mayor Joker Rodriguez and Manuel Arquero.

The land used to be very productive since it lies along the Sto. Tomas River.


After their farms were covered by lahar, the farmers tried to make a living through small-scale quarrying.

In 1993, San Antonio Farms (SAF), an agricultural company owned by a certain Laurel leased the land from the farmers for five years.

SAF conducted a survey to ascertain individual ownerships and boundaries before the land was cleared and planted with sugar cane.

Three years later, armed men strafed the bunkhouses of the company, residents said.


After the strafing, the farmhands hired by SAF fled to Pampanga and the land was abandoned.

The farmers once again prepared to scrape the lahar off their farms and make it productive.

In 2005, with the SAF gone, representatives of Arquero and Rodriguez arrived and claimed the land as theirs, brandishing a very old title under the name of Ceferino Rodriguez.

Ceferino Rodriguez was purported to be a very rich man who owned the entire Philippines — a claim described by the farmers as “preposterous.”

“E, maliit pa ako nagsasaka na kami diyan, paano naging kanya ang lupa?” (From the time we were still small we were already tilling the land, how can they claim that the land is theirs?) a close friend of Abelon and a batchmate at West Luzon Agricultural College (WLAC), who also asked not to be named, told GLNS.


Relatives and friends believe the quarry issue is the most probable cause of Abelon’s ambush, a claim supported by Anakpawis members here.

But all refused to be named because of fear.

“Gusto kasi nila masolo ang pera sa quarry,” (They want to keep the quarry profits to themselves.) a close relative said.

In the morning of March 20, Abelon and his family went to the Zambales Electric Cooperative (ZAMECO) office in San Marcelino to a report a busted electric connection, the fact finding mission learned.

Riding their motorcycle, the family later passed by the Castillejos Public Market to buy a few household items before proceeding to Bgy. San Rafael in San Marcelino town.

They were waylaid at around noon, a hundred meters away from the secondary dike in Sitio Mawaw in the same village where the quarry is located.

Running for his life

When they heard the first volley of shots, eyewitnesses interviewed by the fact finding mission said they ran and took shelter in a nearby hut.

The same eyewitnesses said they saw Abel running for his life while at least one armed man in a white shirt repeatedly fired at him. While running, Abel was reportedly able to call his employer and asked for help.

His wounded body was found some 70 meters away from his motorcycle and was first brought to the San Marcelino Emergency Hospital.


Witnesses further claimed a dark colored sports utility vehicle was seen some ten meters away from where Agnes and Ervy John were found dead.

The lifeless body of Agnes was found embracing her son, as if trying to cover him from danger, witnesses said. The two victims were found dead with a single bullet wound each on their heads.

The motorcycle was found parked by the roadside some 10 meters away from the victims. Witnesses said the victims may have not been immediately attacked. Abelon may have recognized the assailants and had parked his motorcycle before they were fired upon, witnesses said.

Nine bullets were removed from Abelon’s body. He is now under heavy guard at an undisclosed hospital. Gitnang Luson News Service/Posted by Bulatlat


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