Lapanday Foods Corp., through its lawyers, sent a letter to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) stating that it does not recognize its jurisdiction over the banana plantation and argued that Mariano’s installation order is null and void.
The agribusiness firm reportedly employed around 700 armed men to secure the 145-hectare banana plantation and installed ‘booby traps’ near the fence according to eyewitnesses’ accounts.
Thousands of farmers and agricultural workers from the Southern Mindanao region have gathered near the SANID plantation in Madaum, Tagum City to join the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and DAR as they reclaim the Lapanday farm today.
Reports also show that hundreds of members of peasant organization Bagkus Salug from San Fernando, Bukidnon were blocked by elements of PNP in Kapalong, Davao del Norte as they were traveling to the encampment site to support the installation of farmer beneficiaries.
DAR is set to reinstall 159 farmers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) who were evicted by the agribusiness firm in 2011. Mariano arrived in Tagum earlier this morning and met with Davao del Norte Governor Anthony Del Rosario for the “peaceful installation” of MARBAI members.
In a memorandum dated April 11, the DAR Secretary directed Region XII Director Joseph Orilla and Davao del Norte Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) Jocelyn Sena to conduct a pre-installation meeting with the Provincial Police Office and the Commission on Human Rights. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP have committed to deploy 200 men to enforce the writ of installation issued by Mariano.
The order is in response to the “continued defiance of [Lapanday] and all of its officers, employees or persons acting for and in its behalf, to the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by DAR on December 14, 2016,” according to the agrarian reform chief.
DAR issued a CDO prohibiting the agribusiness firm from forcibly evicting members of MARBAI from the banana plantation amid the series of attacks on the farmers’ encampment by alleged personnel of Lapanday.
“If not restraint, such defiance, will surely impede and frustrate the mandate of DAR to protect the rights and welfare of agrarian reform beneficiaries to own directly or collectively the lands they till or to receive their just share in the case of farmworkers,” Mariano said.
The 145-hectare land that was previously awarded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1996 was successfully turned over by DAR to MARBAI farmers last Dec. 19. However, they were reportedly dispossessed of their farms 12 days after when around 300 security guards forced them out of the landholdings.
Lapanday also applied for a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction before the Court of Appeals to undermine the CDO issued by DAR but the court denied the application last Jan. 6.
Mariano affirmed the agency’s quasi-judicial powers to adjudicate agrarian reform issues and determine matters involving the implementation of agrarian laws based on the authority vested to DAR as stated in Section 50 of Republic Act No. 6657 and Section 17, Chapter 4 of Executive Order 220.
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