AFTER more than a year of fighting a legal battle against a private company, farmers in Purok 7, Barangay Puerto in Cagayan de Oro City declared victory as they received the “cease and desist” order of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to demolish the gates and fences built around the perimeter of the contested land.
Gemma Herrera, president of Upper Puerto Fight Carp Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (UPFCBA), said the demolition of the structures built by Oroville Development Corporation, was ordered by DAR through case no. ARO-1000-0254-2012 released last September.
The contested lots are: TCT-T-85135, TCT-T-104365, and TCT-T-85121 totaling around 49 hectares of agricultural land.
The petitioners and Oroville were involved in a legal conflict when the latter fenced off the lots and forbid residents from entering the property.
According to Herrera, even if they have won the case in the Supreme Court and two cease-and-desist orders were issued by DAR regarding the gates and fences, Oroville through its alleged goons was able to re-establish it and control the area.
The first and second cease-and-desist orders were issued by DAR April and October 2012, respectively.
But now that the DAR demolition order has come out, Herrera said it will make their lives easier as they can now pass through the fenced area.
“Through this DAR order our products can now get out of the farm easy,” said Herrera.
“Bunga sa paningkamot sa beneficiaries sa Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper),” said Richard Colao, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas–Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR), referring to what the peasants have achieved lately.
Colao said when the conflict started it was the farmers in the area who endured the harassment and threats of a group of armed men.
“First week pabuthan na sila og armas sa ilang tungod para lang manghawa sa ilang yuta (During the first week of the conflict armed goons fired their automatic rifles to scare the farmers off),” said Colao.
According to an open letter of UPFCBA to President Benigno Aquino III and local government units the farmers have experienced grave human rights violations.
“Binaril sa hita ang isang babaeng kasamahan naming. Dalawang babae din ang hinila patungo sa kalsada upang pasagasaan (One of the women in our community was shot in the thigh. Two other women were dragged to the highway by Oroville’s goons so trucks could run over them),” the letter said.
The woman shot in the thigh was Mirasol Dalion while the two women’s names were not known.
The letter said one of the children in the community was hanged inversely and the goons attempted to get the child inside the hole for the fences.
Pedro Maglupay, an elderly member of UPFCBA, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro City that Oroville dwarfs them all individually.
“But as an organized group, we now have the capacity to defend our rights to this land,” said Maglupay.
Maglupay added he was harassed before and went into hiding somewhere in Bukidnon because of this.
Using the Presidential Decree 772 or the Anti-Squatting Law, he was sued turning him technically into a professional squatter of the land that he has been tilling since 1986.
“Daghan na kadaut nabuhat sa Oroville diri sa amo pero padayon gihapon mi (Oroville had done a lot of damages to us but we go on fighting),” added Maglupay.
The main products of the contested land are cassava, corn, and various vegetables for the residents’ sustenance.
“Monday, around 10 police officers under Senior Superintendent Graciano Mijares and representatives from DAR-MisOr implemented the cease-and-desist order,” said Colao.
Nearly a dozen police officers and some DAR officials went to the area to demolish the gates in the disputed area.
Colao said this will allow the farmers to freely pass through the disputed land to transport farm produce.
“Through this order the farmers can now easily transport their farm products to and from their farms,” said Colao.
Herrera said the abolition of the fences and gates feels so good for them especially that they have struggled for this for a long time.
Colao added that after almost three decades of tilling the contested land the farmers of Upper Puerto still have to fight and defend it.
He added that this situation is rampant in the Philippine countryside.
Lawyer Evangeline Carasco, legal counsel for the farmers, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that DAR denied the motion of Oroville to exempt the disputed area from Carp claiming it is residential instead of agricultural.
This reporter tried to get the side of Oroville through its legal counsel Rexel Pacuribot but a text-message sent to his mobile phone went unanswered Wednesday afternoon.