Another farmer-activist was shot dead yesterday, February 19, in Barangay Elustre, Roxas town in the contested 4,124 hectares reservation area of the University of the Southern Mindanao (USM) in Arakan, North Cotabato.
The victim was identified as Willerme Algorde, auditor, of a local farmers group Mailuminado Farmers’ Association Incorporated (Mafai). Reports said Algorde was sitting in front of his son's store when fired upon by motorcycle riding men at around 6 in the evening. Algorde is the third farmer killed this 2017.
Agrarian reform Secretary Rafael Mariano condemned the killing as he directed DAR region 12 office to come up with measures to immediately settle land row problem in Arakan.Mafai members from five villages in Arakan on December 8, 2016, held a protest and camped outside the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST) to seek the immediate distribution of their farmland, which is estimated to be 4,124 hectares.
The farmland is a part of the 5,091 hectares declared as a reservation area for the Mindanao Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of the Southern Mindanao (USM). President Carlos Garcia declared the area on July 24, 1954 through a Presidential Declaration 428. Republic Act 3801 allotted 1,000 hectares from 5,091 hectares for Children’s Education Foundation Village, where the CFCST now stands, on July 22, 1963.
DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has assured the farmers of the Arakan municipality that the unused portion of agricultural lands previously covered by the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) reservation will be awarded to its actual tillers and occupants.
Mariano, in a letter dated Dec. 16, 2016 cited Executive Order No. 407, Series of 1990 (EO 407) and Executive Order No. 448, Series of 1991 (EO 448) as bases for the immediate execution of the Deeds of Transfer.
In a joint board meeting last February 9, held at Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Executive Lounge, U.P. Campus, Diliman, Quezon City with the Board of Regents of the USM and the Board of Trustees of CFCST, where the key officials from the DAR, CFCST, CHED, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and local government units (LGUs) both agreed to come up with a solution for the possible distribution of the reserved property to the Arakan farmers.
The meeting was held to resolve the issue on the immediate distribution of the 5,018.3697 hectares of USM and CFCST reservation land to the 2,110 potential farmer beneficiaries in Arakan, North Cotabato.
Commissioner, CHED/Chair-Designate Ronald L. Adamat, USM President Dr. Francisco Gil Garcia and members of the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees agreed to distribute the unused land of the university to its farmer-occupants as long as the Indigenous people are considered.
Director III Marion Y. Abella assured that the DAR will coordinate with the Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee, Barangay- Local Government Units (LGU), Municipal LGU of Arakan, North Cotabato and Civil Society Organizations within the affected barangay and municipality to settle the issue.
Pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law as amended by Republic Act 9007, or the CARP-Extension with Reform, the farmers claimed that they are entitled to own the lands under the government’s land transfer program.
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