Published: Friday, 22 February 2013 01:17 PM
The government’s efforts to secure just and lasting peace in Mindanao have received a shot in the arm with the recent signing of a Peace Covenant between two groups of farmers that could put an end to almost four decades of bloody encounters over 178 hectares of land in Makilala, Cotabato.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes noted that the peace agreement signed last January 31 between Moslem and Christian agrarian reform beneficiaries in Sitio Lacobe would enable the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to complete the process of land titling as well as actual distribution of land to warring parties in the area.
“I commend the local DAR officials and the local government officials of Cotabato for working hand-in-hand to forge an agreement between the feuding groups of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Sitio Lacobe,” delos Reyes said.
“Now, our people in the field can do their work, without fear of intimidation, to ensure that only deserving agrarian reform beneficiaries would own a piece of land in the contested area,” he added.
Local DAR officials, in a report to the Secretary, noted that the implementation of agrarian reform program in Sitio Lacobe had been hampered by bloody encounters between two groups of farmer-beneficiaries—the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs.
The rift reportedly turned more violent after the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs sought intervention from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), respectively, to firm up their claim to the contested area.
The roots of the problem were traced to the early 1970s, when a group of Moslem farmers led by a certain Sailila Baclid were displaced from Sitio Lacobe due to armed encounters between the Moslem “Blackshirts” and the Christian “Ilagas.”
The Baclid group claimed that they were adamant to return to their land in Sitio Lacobe because the Ilagas were against the presence of Moslems in the area. Their problem turned worse when some of the Ilagas joined the communist New People’s Army, which turned Sitio Lacobe as its training ground.
The Baclid group recounted that in 1990, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of the Municipality of Tulunan met with Sailila Baclid and advised the latter and his group to return to their land in Sitio Lacobe.
The move was necessary to enable DAR to include the Baclid group in the list of potential agrarian reform beneficiaries who may be given individual parcels of land under the program.
The Baclid group managed to return to their land only after the NPA’s local units gave them permission to do so, enabling the Moslem farmers to construct houses anew and plant rubber trees, rice and corn.
In 2001, for unknown reasons, NPA guerrillas allegedly attacked the Moslem residents in Sitio Lacobe, forcing Baclid and his group to leave the area.
Sometime January in 2005, it was the turn of Christian agrarian reform beneficiaries to leave the area due to threats and harassments from armed groups identified with the MILF.
It was alleged that some members of the MILF, who sympathize with the cause of the Baclid’s clan, were out to reclaim the land belonging to the Moslem farmers.
A series of dialogues organized by DAR and the local government unit were held to find a solution to the conflict, but to no avail. One of the dialogues was even participated by then Sectoral Representative Joel Virador of Bayan Muna and MILF Spokesman Eid Kabalu.
Later in 2007, an ambush incident took place in Sitio Lacobe, which resulted in the death of a certain Salem and a member of the Baclid family.
A breakthrough occurred in January last year, when both the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs agreed to meet separately with Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Marion Abella through the intervention of Edriz Gandalibo, appointed Deputy Governor for Muslim Affairs by Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, and Pastor Estrella and Reynulfo La Paz of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Cotabato.
During the consultations, PARO Abella mapped out lots of the contested area in Sitio Lacobe and identified beneficiaries from both the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs.
This effort further gained ground in the later part of the month when Gov. Talino-Mendoza called for a province-wide consultation-meeting for all land-related conflicts in the province.
Apprised of breakthroughs in the Lacobe band conflict, the Governor promised her support for the negotiations and vowed to help finance the survey cost in the contested area, if necessary.
On August 3, 2011, the local government of Makilala formally endorsed the issue to DAR Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes for intervention and speedy resolution.
With the Secretary’s marching orders, Regional Director Nasser Musali and Abella stepped up their coordination efforts with the Provincial Government and reached out to the conflicting parties through the help of influential groups to forge a peace agreement between the feuding groups of farmer-beneficiaries.
Last January 31, Delos Reyes stood witness as DAR formally sowed the seeds of peace and development for the farmers of Sitio Lacobe through a Peace Covenant signed by the two groups.
Aside from forging the peace agreement, the DAR is offering a long line of development projects that will be laid down to help the community.
This year, Lacobe of Barangay Malabuan will be a recipient of OPPAP- PAMANA Projects implemented by DAR and the JICA-funded MinSAAD Projects to improve the lives of the Agrarian Reform Beneficaries and eventually contribute to the development of the communit
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