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Sec. Mariano Issues Cease and Desist Order vs Lapanday

news reg 1 pix 1 dec. 15 2016TAGUM CITY, Dec. 15 – Amid the wave of attacks on the farmers’ encampment in Brgy. Madaum this week, agrarian reform chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has issued a Cease and Desist Order prohibiting the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) and its security guards from forcibly evicting the members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) from the banana plantation.

MARBAI President Mely Yu, through a letter dated December 13, requested the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to intervene in their case as several of their members have been injured due to the series of assaults perpetrated by the alleged security guards of the LFC. 

At least three people were wounded and several others, including women, were held hostage by suspected goons of the LFC on December 14, the latest in the round of attacks that has hit the MARBAI farmers’ encampment.

Last Dec. 12, seven victims have been injured after a gunfire attack by security guards of the LFC struck the farmers’ campsite. The DAR has then ordered the Regional Office of Region XI and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office of Davao Del Norte to probe the said attack.

Section 46 of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order (A.O.) No. 7, Series of 2014 states that a cease and desist order is issued “at any time prior to either the finality of the order of the Secretary or the perfection of an appeal, in cases where any party may suffer grave or irreparable damage.”

Secretary Mariano urged Regional Director John Maruhom and Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Jocelyn Seno to secure police or military assistance to ensure that there will be no disturbance in the peaceful possession and occupation of the farmers in the 145-hectare banana plantation.

The DAR also directed its local officials to coordinate with the Philippine National Police to file cases against the suspects of the reported assaults.

Probing the conglomerate

Lapanday is a multibillion export company of tropical products such as bananas and pineapples. Former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo, who was allegedly involved in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam in 2004, is one of the corporation’s owners. He escaped investigation in 2005 when he left the country before a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the mismanagement of funds during the presidential campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

However, Lorenzo has been recently cleared of the accusation with a 24-page decision of the Sandiganbayan stating that “there is no probable cause to hold the accused liable for the crime of plunder.” 

Peasant organizations have long hit Lorenzo’s family as they have also assumed proprietorship of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) through a landmark agreement with the Cojuanco in 2015. The CAT operates inside the highly disputed Hacienda Luisita where hundreds of farmers have been victims of exploitation and suffering.news reg 1 pix 2 dec. 15 2016

Awaiting installation

Despite a final and executory December 15, 2015 decision ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in favor of the MARBAI farmers, they were not installed to the 145-hectare banana plantation.

In his visit last October, Secretary Mariano assured the farmers who were already in a camp-out at the gate of the LFC compound that the DAR would push for their peaceful installment into their landholdings. However, their safety and security were compromised due to the recent incidents.

MARBAI farmers have been staging a camp-in protest at the banana plantation after successfully reclaiming the land last Dec. 9, six years after the LFC ousted them out. They are farmer beneficiaries who were given a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Each of the 159 farmers owns a 0.79-hectare piece of the banana plantation. 

According to Yu, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC who buys their products for export. She added that they were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were poorly classified for a lower price, thus resulting to a measly Php2,000 monthly income. The agreement has caused the farmer beneficiaries to accumulate a debt of almost Php1 billion to the LFC. 

MARBAI Finance Head Artemio Serot said the farmers are on high alert as threats to their lives and livelihood remain. Thousands of farmworkers and members of peasant organizations have joined the MARBAI farmers’ camp to support their fight for land ownership.

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