MANILA, Philippines -- After decades of waiting and more than a year of plans and attempts, 23 farmer beneficiaries in Barangay Sumangga, Ormoc City finally spent Monday night camped on land awarded to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Gillian Cruz, media officer of agrarian reform advocacy group Kaisahan (Kaisahan tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan), said Tuesday the Sumangga farmers were installed on their land on Monday with the help of Department of Agrarian Reform officials and members of the Philippine National Police.
Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights as well as members of non-government organizations and the Ormoc-Kananga farmers' federation were also in attendance as observers and to extend support.
DAR Adjudication Board Sheriff Joseph Catingub served the Writ of Installation at the Sumangga Barangay Hall while the same writ was served at the office of former landowner Potenciano and Aniceta Larrazabal Enterprises Corp. (PALEC), Kaisahan said in a release.
Under the CARP, 35.56 hectares of land previously owned by the Larrazabals, an influential family in Ormoc City, was distributed to farmer beneficiaries through Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) in 1996. Opposition from PALEC kept the beneficiaries from taking over and tilling the land, however.
PALEC has questioned the legitimacy of the agrarian reform beneficiaries before the DAR. Under DARAB rules, a pending case cannot stop installation and only the Supreme Court can issue a temporary restraining on a Writ of Installation.
The installation was scheduled for last week but had to be postponed indefinitely due to procedural issues.
During the installation, PALEC representative Joel Rubin and PALEC farm coordinator Ramil Labilagon went to the area to negotiate with Catingub to have the installation stopped because the land was private property. Catingub refused to stop the installation and the two PALEC representatives left, Kaisahan said.
On Monday afternoon, PALEC workers returned to the area to set up a tent and guard the property but left after Catingub and police personnel talked to them.
DARAB Sheriff Catingub and police personnel explain the installation activity to PALEC workers camped in the area.
Although the Sumangga farmers were able to pitch tents and take possession of their land, lawyer Adelito Solibaga Jr., who represents a rival group of PALEC farm workers claiming to be the legitimate beneficiaries, has said that his clients are opposed to the installation and are of the position that it should not have pushed through because of the pending case.
Police personnel have been detailed to the area to ensure the safety of the farmer beneficiaries.
Cruz said Tuesday morning that 11 other farmer beneficiaries were in nearby Barangay Valencia waiting for installation on their land to begin. The installation will be assisted by the DAR, the PNP and by members of advocacy and farmers' groups.