'Hacienda Binay' may be forfeited, says DAR chief

on . Posted in DAR In The News
absMANILA – The court may order the forfeiture of the Rosario, Batangas estate being linked to Vice-President Jejomar Binay if it is proven that it was prematurely converted from agricultural land to residential or commercial.

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes told the Senate on Tuesday that his department is currently working with the Register of Deeds of Batangas in checking whether transfers of titles have been carried out for several parcels of lands which were registered under various names but stand on land owned by Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp.

''These land holdings now are subject of verification with the Register of Deeds because DAR is not the keeper of records when land is transferred,'' he said.

Sunchamp is owned by businessman Antonio Tiu, who is accused of being a dummy of Vice-President Binay. Tiu denied the allegations, insisting he bought the land from Laureano Gregorio.

The businessman said he is developing the property into an agri-tourism destination. He earlier drew flak for presenting an un-notarized Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) as proof of purchase of the 145-hectare property from Gergorio.

The DAR chief said Sunchamp's land may have been covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Thus, the sale or conversion of agricultural land without authorization from the DAR is not allowed by the law.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santaigo also noted that Gregorio has no record at the DAR of being a landowner.

Under the land reform law, farmer-beneficiaries can only sell the land after 10 years and only after the original owner has been compensated.

Any sale of land originally under the government's land reform program should be cleared by the DAR. The DAR has to issue a CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) or EP (Emancipation Patent) before a person can claim ownership of agricultural land.

The buyer is also not allowed to get more than 5 hectares of land.


Delos Reyes said 632 hectares in the town's six barangays are covered by CARP. For the entire Rosario town, Delos Reyes said 122 hectares of land have been approved for conversion.

"Kung pagbabasehan ang news reports, ito ay maliliit na lupa na binubuo. Ang lumalabas, ito ay 600 hectares na may CLOA. So makatuwid, lumalabas sa MOA, parang nagkasundo si Mr. Tiu at Mr. Gregorio na bubuuin nila ang hiwa-hiwalay,'' he told dzMM.

Delos Reyes said those who sold their agricultural land without DAR authorization may be blacklisted as beneficiaries.

The DAR chief said under Republic Act No. 8435 (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997), the court may order the forfeiture of an agricultural land which has been prematurely converted.

The law defines premature conversion as an ''undertaking of any development activity, the results of which modify or alter the physical characteristics of the agricultural lands to render them suitable for non-agricultural purposes, without an approved order of conversion from the DAR."

Delos Reyes said DAR personnel have already visited the controversial estate as part of efforts to determine whether the land was indeed illegally converted.

"Pagkatapos ng imbestigasyon at kung makita na hindi dapat ito mag-operate as agri-tourism, maglalabas ng order para itigil ang operasyon," he said.

"Sapagkat ito ay criminal case, tayo ang mag-iimbestiga at ipapasa ito sa DOJ (Department of Justice) for preliminary investigation."

Source: http://rp2.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/11/19/14/hacienda-binay-may-be-forfeited-says-dar-chief