More often, investors become subject of a hate campaign by interest individuals who use the legitimate people’s organization to pursue personal whims. In some cases, the people’s organization also exploits the plaints of individuals or the group as a basis to legitimize an advocacy. On the surface, the demands appeared to be legitimate. However, when one goes down deeper into the issue, some disturbing concerns suddenly come to view.
For instance, the A. W. Brown, a company engaged in real estate and agribusiness endeavor, is not an exception. The Kalumbay, a legitimate tribal organization in Bukidnon, has accused the A.W. Brown of displacing thousands of farmers and indigenous people in the mountains of Opol, a municipal town west of Misamis Oriental.
Aside from displacing the indigenous people, the Kalumbay also accused the A.W. Brown, of allegedly violating the rights of the indigenous people who are opposed to the company’s agribusiness project.
The killing of a certain Gilbert Paborada during a drinking spree in Puntod, Macabalan in Cagayan De Oro City sometime last year was an issue against the A.W. Brown, too. The distance from Ting-Alan to the scene of the crime, where Paborada was reportedly stabbed dead, is more than 100 kilometers. With no suspect to identify, Joseph, the brother of Gilbert, point to A.W. Brown as the possible mastermind because the victim opposed the A. W. Brown’s operation in the area.
These serious accusations prompted human rights advocate from Congress to fly to Opol last Wednesday to conduct a probe and to hear the plea of the people who are directly and indirectly affected by the A.W. Brown agribusiness. The representatives, mostly partly list of the Gabriela, Bayan, Indigenous People, Anak Pawis and the 2nd District of Misamis Oriental.
By the way, the A.W. Brown is cultivating a 2,000 hectares agricultural land in about five rural farming villages in Opol since 2011. As of now, the company has planted palm oil trees to more than 600 hectares of land in the area. Company officials reported that A.W. Brown employs 174 workers (most of them indigenous people) in the area, particularly in the farming village of Ting-Alan, Opol. Every month, A. W. Brown releases P 1.2 million payrolls money for farm workers in the area.
Hundreds of residents and tribal groups represented by tribal Chieftains join the public hearing in Ting-Alan Wednesday. It turns out, however, that the issue was not about human rights abuses, displacement, and alleged land grabbing hurled against A.W. Brown. The issue was about the conflict of two people’s organizations who want to take control of about 200 hectares palm tree plantation reportedly owned by a former Congressman, on the border of Ting-Alan and Bagocboc.
The other issues by the indigenous groups and tribal chieftains were about boundary conflict between Opol and Iligan in the hinterland of Kauyonan. The tribal chieftains also voiced concern about the mining operators in the area (not the A.W. Brown) which has jeopardized the indigenous people’s “small scale mining activities.” The tribal groups blamed the environment officials for not giving the IPs the priority to exploit the mineral and natural resource in areas they considered as “ancestral lands.”
Perhaps, during the public hearing, the Kalumbay and the Congressmen learned that the A.W. Brown, being vulnerable and a stable agribusiness firm, is only used by some individuals or group in Bagocboc to pursue vested interests.