“Drop the charges against the Le Jardin 4!” says Fil-Am Youth Group
USA – Anakbayan-USA condemns the violent demolition at Le Jardin and the illegal arrest and detention of the “Le Jardin 4”. The youth group demands that the Philippine National Police (PNP) of Talomo District and the City Prosecutor’s Office of Davao immediately drop the charges against the Le Jardin 4.
“The Le Jardin 4 were acting on their inalienable rights to defend their communities against the provocations of the members of PNP who used excessive force against the protesters. Also, this is clearly a land grabbing effort by the Carlos Villa Abrille & Sons Incorporated and Filinvest Lands against the residents of the Bariquit compound. It is only right that the youth and the residents resist against these injustices” said Yves Nibungco, National Chairperson of Anakbayan-USA. “Therefore, we demand that charges against the Le Jardin 4 be immediately and unconditionally dropped,” Nibungco added.
The “Le Jardin 4” is coined to refer to the four youth and student activists who were arrested at the Le Jardin, Bariquit Compound, Davao City. Last August 25, 20 members of the PNP Talomo District under the direction of Superintendent Dionisio C. Abude came to Bariquit compound fully armed, in order to implement the Villa Abrille’s fence permit. Residents and members of progressive groups resisted the attempted destruction of the passage used to enter and exit the compound. During the commotion, the police used excessive force at the youth and residents.
The “Le Jardin 4” are Joselito Lagon, Jr. 23, regional spokesperson of Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA); Wyrlo Enero, 19, member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS); Johnny Boy Urbina, 24, and John Michael Lim, both members of Anakbayan-Davao. They were beaten and electrocuted before being loaded in the police mobile. The Le Jardin 4 has been released after posting bail and after mounting pressure from a series of international protests launched by supporters online and in the community.
Fighting the Villa Abrilles since the 1970s
Le Jardin, also known as Bariquit compound, has been a disputed area since 1973. The powerful Villa Abrilles family, who is trying to grab the land, sued Marcela Camomot for allegedly living in the lot illegally. However, Camomot was able to prove in court that her family had been tilling the land since 1962.
Currently, the residents are fighting against the joint landgrabbing efforts by Carlos Villa Abrilles & Sons Inc. and prominent realty firm Filinvest Lands. The Ville Abrille’s have been more aggressive in evicting families from Le Jardin in order to continue a join venture with Filinvest Lands to build a high-end residential subdivision. Reports of shootings by the security hired by the Ville Abrilles occur almost every day. It is employed as an intimidation tactic to force the remaining 13 families from Le Jardin.
Many of their crops and fruit trees have also been destroyed, causing youth activists to work with the community in a gardening project to make up for lost crops. Last month, the community’s electricity and water were officially cut off, making living conditions more difficult. Earlier this year, there were 60 families living in Le Jardin, but soon vacated after being paid off by the Villa Abrilles.
Migration and Displacement
Recently, members of Anakbayan-USA’s Los Angeles and San Diego chapters joined a medical mission in Mindanao. They had the opportunity to visit Bariquit compound and talk to its residents in order to understand their struggle against the common practice of gentrification or “land grabbing” by the landed elite in the Philippines.
“I have integrated with urban and rural communities (Davao City, Diwalwal, Pantukan and Talaingod) in Mindanao for the last two months and all have expressed that the major reasons why they are being displaced is because of foreign and national investments destroying local businesses and a lack of genuine land reform where families are able to find a sense of livelihood. Members of the Philippine military and police have committed human rights violations against its people to enforce these interests,” said Eugene Gambol, member of Anakbayan San Diego.
These, according the young activists, are the same reasons why thousands of Filipino leave the country in search for greener pastures.
“As a Filipino-American, whose parents migrated due to dire economic conditions, I clearly identify with the plight of the residents of Le Jardin,” said Rose Dominguez, also participant to the medical mission and a member of Anakbayan Los Angeles. “Though we’re thousands of miles away, we must realize that we are integral to the struggle of our people for social justice and dignity. ” said Dominguez.
Eugene, Rose and other young Filipino-Americans like them said they will continue their activism highlighting the case of the Le Jardin 4 and the residents of Bariquit Compound when they come back in the United States. They urge the Filipino American community to support the Le Jardin 4 in their struggle against displacement and land grabbing.