(CNN Philippines, May 17)— The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) installed 159 farmers inside the banana plantation controlled by agribusiness company Lapanday Foods Corporation in Tagum City Thursday.
But only 108 hectares have been made available by Lapanday Foods Corporation as they are still contesting the 37 remaining hectares.
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte's order on May 9 to allow the farmer-beneficiaries installation.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano already attempted to install the farmers in the farms twice-on April 18 and 21-but were prevented by Lapanday security guards from entering the plantation.
But Mariano spearheaded the farmer-beneficiaries' entry into the Lapanday plantation in Purok San Isidro, Barangay Madaum at around 10:00 a.m.
Lapanday Foods Corporation insisted on its right to manage the land, citing a November 2016 order from a Regional Trial Court. But Agrarian Reform officials noted that only the Supreme Court has power to restrain DAR's decisions, as provided in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
Lapanday to file suit vs. DAR
The company, however, sent an administrative and criminal complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman charging Secretary Mariano and DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Atty. Luis Pangulayan with grave misconduct.
In a statement issued Thursday, Lapanday said they asked the Ombudsman to issue preventive suspension to the DAR executives.
"Lapanday also blames Mariano for directly instigating the mob who became violent and unruly as the installation of the breakaway agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) was proceeding," it said.
The company maintains it still owns the fruits coming from the plantation in San Isidro.
Earlier this month, the Lapanday farmer-beneficiaries picketed in Mendiola, Manila for two weeks because of the delays in awarding. Duterte himself talked to the farmers.
The 159 farmers were allotted with 145 hectares of land by the government thru the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
The secretary earlier requested the Office of the President to issue a directive to government agencies to assist the DAR in the execution of the Writ of Installation.