The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) recently started the initial phase of installing qualified Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in landholdings in Barangay Don Juan Vercelos and Barangay Butanguiad of the Municipality of San Francisco in the Province of Quezon.
A total of 1,715.98 hectares had already been covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) starting in the year 2006 in agricultural lands formerly owned by the Matias Family in the Bondoc Peninsula. At present, Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) have already been issued. The said landholdings are now in the name of the Republic of the Philippines (RP Titles).
An inter-agency effort made possible the installation of the ARB's in the former Matias landholdings last May 15 and 16. The DAR together with representatives from the Philippine National Police, the Department of National Defense, the Public Attorney's Office, the Department of Social Welfare and the Commission of Human Rights proceeded with the installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The installation was resisted by occupants of the land identified with the former landowners The installing team and the beneficiaries were initially barred entry by a steel gate and concrete fence on one of the lands covered by CLOA and slated for installation. They also enclosed certain areas fenced with barbed wires. Bulls were tied on the posts of the gate to deter the ARBs from going near the areas.
The installation of 26 ARB's who have been previously issued CLOAs in their respective landholding is the culmination of a 12 -year legal battle after a series of attempts of the former landowners to exclude the vast landholdings from CARP on the basis of the claim that the entire Hacienda is a cattle ranch and is therefore outside the ambit of the CARP.
The Petition for Exemption/ Exclusion was denied by DAR, which was also sustained by the Office of the President (OP).
The Matias family elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) which also affirmed the Decision of the Office of the President. The CA Decision (CA-G.R. SP No. 101493) became final on April 4, 2010 thereby ruling with finality that the said landholdings are covered by CARP.
Some beneficiaries expressed dissatisfaction with the installation activities because those who were installed are being harassed by the Matias personnel. The ARBs after being installed left their landholdings.
They even intimated that they intend to return their CLOA or possibly refuse to be installed because of the uncertainty of assistance from law enforcement agencies in ensuring peaceful occupation of the awarded CARP lands after installation.
The ARBs lamented that the installation is useless because they cannot till their lands and conduct harvest activities, They complain that they may be subjected to harassment and their fruits or harvests stolen, and their lives threatened.
Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Pangulayan explained that in some areas where there is strong, and at times violent, resistance of landowners the beneficiaries need to cooperate with the DAR team because it is a process.
"The end result of CARP will not happen immediately after installation of a CLOA holder. Let us not lose sight of the objective of CARP. Installation is a continuing process. There is a need to ensure that the ARB shall be able to own and possess the land peacefully devoid of any form of threat on his or her life, liberty or property. The end of CARP does not happen overnight. It is a slow yet certain process, " stated Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis M. C. Pañgulayan.
He emphasized that the installation of the ARBs is not the end of CARP. It is only the beginning.
"Our priority at this point is to ensure that we will be able to protect the ARBs through the maintenance of peace and order in the areas and through continuing legal assistance, the USec added.
DAR has requested the PNP to provide continuing 24/7assistance during, before and after the installation of the farmer beneficiaries in their awarded CARP landholdings.
DAR asked that before installation, the PNP must set up a detachment inside Lot 101 of the Matias Hacienda and during installation, the PNP must escort the Farmers as DAR brings them to their lands.
DAR also asked for an extended presence of the PNP at strategic points inside the hacienda through roving patrols after installation to deter any harassment of beneficiaries.
USec. Pangulayan stressed that the PNP must be ready to arrest or place in custodial interrogation any one who obstructs these CARP activities or commits trespassing, grave threats or cause physical injuries and theft of copra and other produce.
DAR shall set up an INTER-AGENCY CARP CENTER which shall be installed by DAR in front of Lot 101. It shall be manned by representatives from DAR, DOJ, DSWD. PAO, PNP and the AFP to ensure that there will be immediate assistance to the ARB's during the first 30 days from installation.