“Not all landlords are created equal. Some have really big landholdings. And they form the bastion of the landlord-oligarchy.”—Rafael “Paeng” Mariano, DAR chief
Taking the cue from President Rodrigo Duterte, Agrarian Reform chief Rafael Mariano announced on Friday the new directive of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR): to free farmer-tenants from the grips of landlord-oligarchs.
“These landlord-oligarchs use their power, influence, and connections to deprive farmer-tenants of land that should have been distributed to them by virtue of land reform,” Mariano said.
He cited the 6,453 hectares Hacienda Luisita owned and controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino family of former Pres. Benigno Aquino which was decided by the Supreme Court to be distributed to farmers.
“The new DAR is determined to implement genuine agrarian reform, including free land distribution or land distributed at least cost to farmers,” Mariano added.
The DAR chief likewise cited Negros as the traditional playground of caciques and landlords since the Spanish colonial period. “It is the bastion of haciendas where farmworkers are still enslaved by hunger and poverty, and are being threatened, shot at, and massacred by goons and soldiers.”
Mariano said that DAR is now reviewing two stock distribution options in Negros island region and one agribusiness venture agreement in Mindanao.
“We are in the process of investigating complaints against Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. on the alleged unjust eviction of farmers to “develop” the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm,” he revealed.
According to reports, Gov. Maranon allegedly resorted to harassment and intimidation using government troops after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) issued a decision in favor of the farmers.
Last May, the DAR’s Land Use Case Division–Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance denied the Provincial Government’s Petition for Exemption / Exclusion on the said landholdings.
Since July 15,members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas (KMP) in Negros and the Hacienda Ilimnan Farmworkers Association-National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW)-UMA staged a peasant camp-out at the Provincial Government compound to protest against harassment and unjust eviction of farmers.
Farmworkers embarked on land cultivation of around 12 hectares in Ilimnan for food crops to ease extreme hunger and poverty in the community due to the annual tiempo muerto or off-milling season. This year’s tiempo muerto is aggravated by drought caused by El Nino.
The 12-hectare area is part of a 155-hectare property formerly owned by the Arguelles family who sold the land to the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental in 2010.
Since then, the land has become a subject of a long-running legal battle between supposed land reform beneficiaries composed of hacienda workers and the provincial government which supposedly “developed” the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm.