Mariano assured concerned members of the Barangay Wide Farmers and Farmworkers Association (BWFFA) that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) would resolve next week the motion for reconsideration filed by the provincial government to settle once and for all the 18-year long agrarian dispute.
The provincial government, through Gov. Alfredo Maranon, filed the motion after the DAR denied last May 10 the petition for exemption/exclusion of the said property from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Mariano reiterated his position during a dialogue with the farmers that “no farmer should be evicted from the farm he/she is tilling” to a big applause from the BWFFA members, who felt relieved with the Secretary’s quick response to their cause.
The DAR chief also announced that he would ask the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to clarify reports about local police personnel being used to harass and intimidate prospective farmer-beneficiaries as in the case of the BWFFA.
“Only the DAR has the sole authority to request for police and military assistance to maintain peace and order in agrarian reform areas,” Mariano stressed. He added: Police and military personnel have no reason to stay or be detailed in any agrarian reform areas without a request from the Office of the (DAR) Secretary.”
Headed by Danilo Tabora, the BWFFA is a 220-strong farmers’ group that is laying claims over the 150-hectare Hacienda Ilimnan, a property that the provincial government bought from the the arguelles family in October 2010. Gov. Maranon wanted to transform the property into a livestock farm to be called the “Negros First Ranch.”
The farmers, however, opposed the sale, resulting to a protracted legal battle pitting them against the provincial government.
Tension rose in Hacienda Ilimnan recently when armed goons and a contingent of policemen from the Special Action Forces (SAF), under Senior Supt. Mario Baquiran, reportedly evicted a group of farmers on order of Gov. Maranon.
Mariano said the provincial government’s act of evicting the farmers from the property and of securing it with barbed wired ran counter from the intent and spirit of the CARP.