TAGUM CITY, April 18 – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has postponed the installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Madaum to April 21 after local police in Davao del Norte refused to mobilize its forces for the said activity.
Agribusiness firm Lapanday Foods Corp., who is currently in control of the San Isidro (SANID) farm area, reportedly deployed 800 armed security guards to barricade the banana plantation and allegedly installed ‘booby traps’ along the fences according to eyewitnesses.
Agrarian reform chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano was initially scheduled to install 159 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) to the 145-hectare land but had to postpone to ensure the safety and security of the agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“We will not bow down to this act of aggression by big landlord-oligarchs against our bid to implement genuine agrarian reform. We will ensure that the farmer-beneficiaries will be installed to their rightful lands safely,” Mariano said.
In a press conference held this afternoon, the DAR Secretary explained that the local police invoked technicalities and cited the lack of operational plan for the installation despite meeting with local DAR officials for a pre-installation conference last April 17.
Mariano arrived in Tagum early this morning and met with Davao del Norte Governor Anthony Del Rosario for the “peaceful installation” of MARBAI members. He also talked to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to seek help for additional security measures.
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 at the end of 2016 when around 300 security guards forced them out of the landholdings.
Lapanday, in addition, stated that it does not recognize DAR’s jurisdiction over the banana plantation and argued that Mariano’s writ of installation is null and void. The agribusiness firm also applied for a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction before the Court of Appeals to undermine the Cease and Desist Order issued by Mariano but the court denied the application.
DAR has ordered the police to ensure that the security agency employed by Lapanday would not interfere with the department’s rescheduled installation. Last January, Mariano warned Lapanday of contempt and additional criminal and administrative cases if the banana farmers in Tagum City are not reinstated to their lands immediately.
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