MANKAYAN, Benguet – Concerned residents in Am-am, Balili are alarmed over the presence of more or less fifty heavily-armed persons who have allegedly camped in the premises of a 21-hectare property being currently fenced off by a claimant.
Sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons, questioned police authorities on their alleged failure to arrest the alleged members of a private army that have camped in the area to secure the said property of the claimant that allegedly deprived dozens of farmers of their land they had previously tilled over the past several decades.
Further, the source alleged that the armed men are preventing the farmers in doing their routine work in their farms because the property that was tax declared in their names are already owned by a private individual and that they are told they have no business entering the fenced-off property.
The sources added that the worst is that these armed group that have camped in some 3 sites around the claimed property have been allegedly harassing and threatening the farmers not to force their way into the property and work on their crops because they might be forced to harm them for reportedly trespassing into a private property.
According to the sources, the private claimant whom the community does not even know and the armed men are not allowing the farmers to attend to and harvest their crops for their own subsistence and to recover their investments.
The source challenged the concerned local officials and police authorities to look into the said issue because it is now causing anxiety, restlessness and doubt among the residents on whether or not the responsible officials and law enforcement agencies are able to prevent the armed men from harming them.
The residents have sought the legal assistance of some lawyers to guide them on possible remedies on issues for them to continue gardening while the issues are being resolved.
The sources expressed hope that local officials and police authorities will be able to immediately act on the matter to prevent the armed men from continuing their threatening presence which is sowing fear among them and depriving them of their sources of subsistence.
The residents vowed to avail of all available legal remedies to be able to sustain their farming activities which had been their major economic activity over the past several decades.
Balili is one of the town’s 6 upland barangays that are major producers of highland vegetables, with Benguet producing more than 80 percent of the highland vegetables that are being sold in the various markets around the country