ORMOC CITY, LEYTE – All’s well that ends well.
After 16 years of enmity, two factions of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) finally smoked the peace pipe after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) worked out a compromise agreement: Share the 46-hectare Fran Farm between themselves at 25:21 ratio.
“Finally, the case is closed,” Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II (PARPO II) Renato Badilla said to the big applause of the DAR personnel, the farmer-beneficiaries and others who came to witness the momentous event.
The agreement provides that the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) takes for itself 25 hectares, while granting the remaining 21 hectares to the Fran Farm Workers Association (FFWA).
Badilla hailed the agreement as a major breakthrough in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in the province. He said he would immediately endorse it to the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) for approval.
The resolution of the case came after a series of heart-to-heart talks between the two ARBs, which Badilla had presided following a DARAB final ruling early last year, awarding the entire 46-hectare Fran Farm to the BFA, a decision that did not sit well with the FFWA.
Touched by the spirit of Christmas, the BFA finally relented and offered to divide the property between the two groups of farmer-beneficiaries in December last year, signaling the end of 16 years of animosity that saw a farmer-leader of one of the rival groups shot dead inside the DAR-Leyte office in 2001.
After threshing out minor kinks, BFA president Rosenda Apay and FFWA chairperson Benjie Malinao, in the company of their respective members, signed the compromise agreement last March 10 before Badilla and his legal chief Atty. Daniel Pen and the latter’s sister, Atty. Kenilma Pen.
Witnessing the momentous event were DAR-Leyte quick response officer Eulogio Elmido and other fellow DAR staffs, peasant-based nongovernment organization leaders Rina Reyes of Rights and Rubie Espina of Kaisahan and a contingent of policemen for the maintenance of peace and order.
The BFA and FFWA also agreed to recognize and respect each other as farmer-beneficiaries and drop claims and legal suits that they filed against each other. The BFA also assured that it would recognize FFWA farmers’ homelots inside the 25-hectare area that is allocated to the BFA.
The DAR was designated to do the subdivision survey on the landholding and issue individual certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) to each FFWA member and a collective CLOA to the BFA according to its preference.
Actually, the dispute over the property started in 1999, when the rival groups questioned the identification and qualifications of each other as agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to a landholding formerly owned by Teofilo Fran, which resulted to a protracted legal battle. (Jose Alsmith Soria and John Colasito)