ARMED with a 2012 Supreme Court order, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is determined to install all the 6,212 beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac.
The DAR is now in the final stages of installing beneficiaries into their government-awarded farm lots within the hacienda formerly owned by the family of President Aquino.
Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said farmers backed by disgruntled groups opposing the installation of the farmers in their assigned farm lots are causing the delay, citing the incident involving a certain Gerry Catalan, also a beneficiary, who allegedly refused to be relocated.
Jose Eduardo Narciso of the DAR Tarlac Office said Catalan is illegally occupying and cultivating a 3-hectare farm at Barangay Asturias, Tarlac City. The lot was awarded to a number of beneficiaries, including Villamor Bermudo. The 6,212 beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita are getting only 6,000 square meters from the 4,009 hectares net distributable portion for distribution by the DAR.
Catalan was awarded a farm lot in Barangay Parang but one of the few who still refused to sign the application to purchase and farmers’ undertaking, a precondition set by the DAR before installing the beneficiary to their awarded farm lot. The document indicates that the beneficiary is willing to pay for the CARP-awarded land and use it for agricultural production.
Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita earlier criticized the DAR for allegedly forcing their way and destroying the crops in Catalan’s farm. The allegation was belied by the DAR.
Narciso said Bermudo and other Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) holders in Barangay Asturias, were earlier installed but were later harassed and dispossessed by Catalan. The farmers complained to the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office led by Precy Landingin, who in turn reported the incident to Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Ileona Pangilinan.
By virtue of the report, Pangilinan issued a Writ of Installation pursuant to Section 109 of A.O. 7, Series of 2011, addressed to DAR Adjudication Board Sheriff Alfredo de Mesa dated June 11, 2014, directing him to place the displaced CLOA holder in physical possession of his awarded land.
On June 25 de Mesa proceeded to implement the Writ of Installation, with Narciso, Miguel Acosta, and the field facilitators with the assistance of policemen.
He said Bermudo and Barangay Lourdes Chairman Edison Diaz decided to take over the land even without Catalan using a bulldozer. Narciso said he has nothing to do with the decision to destroy the crops and said he even advised Bermudo and Diaz to wait for Catalan to arrive to show him the order from the DAR Provincial Office.
Parungao said Catalan will be facing charges for harassing the farmers and denying the legitimate beneficiaries possession of the land he is illegally occupying.
Parungao said the DAR is now studying “whether a case can be filed against Catalan for obstruction.”
He said he had already ordered the DAR’s chief legal to do the necessary case build up against Catalan.
“FBs [farmer-beneficiaries] obviously have a right to their land; this has been consistently and repeatedly stated and emphasized by the DAR in various meeting and through information campaigns. It is in this context that we understand why the FBs acted the way they did in this case, and why the DAR assisted them in regaining possession of their duly awarded farm lots,” Parungao said.
“We are now in the final stages of installing all the FBs in Hacienda Luisita, and we will do our best to execute fully the decision of the Supreme Court. There had previously been reports of incidents of harassment and obstruction, some of which had been the subject of criminal complaints. We will not allow such acts to prevent us from doing our job under the law,” he said.
He said that at the outset, the DAR never recognized unilateral acts of some individuals to occupy certain parcels in the landholding, referring to the so-called bungkalan system.
“This is precisely the reason why we conducted that lot allocation activity in the 10 barangays middle of last year,” he said.