DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said it is only the Supreme Court that could stop him from installing 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City.
He also said the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s move to refer to a regional court “restrained, neutralized or demobilized” its ground personnel from giving assistance and protection to the farmers.
“Sabi ko yung sulat ninyo na yan sa RTC Branch 14 ng Davao City ay nagsisilbing pagtali sa kamay ng PNP,” he said.
On April 18, Mariano and DAR officials were unable to execute its Writ of Installation that allowed members of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. to occupy a parcel of banana plantation in Tagum.
Mariano issued the Writ on April 11 to “install the farmer beneficiaries/member of MARBAI in the San Isidro farm area,employing reasonable force and means as may be necessary to effectively perform such installation.”
The 145-hectare farm area is also claimed by the Lapanday Foods Corporation as their managed area under a compromise agreement between Lapanday and the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1.
Hearbco-1 is the original cooperative where Marbai members bolted out following its opposition in the “onerous” terms of the compromise agreement.
The installation of the farmers in the farm area was reset on Friday, Apr. 21, upon which time Mariano and DAR officials expect PNP to assist in the peaceful takeover of Marbai farmers.
PNP ground personnel did not participate in the earlier installation as they said they were not given a go-signal from Police Regional Office 11 Director Police Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan.
Gaerlan wrote the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 to seek clarification whether they abide with its earlier alias Writ of Execution favoring Lapanday’s contract with the farmers or to comply with DAR’s Writ of installation that in effect, nullifies the Lorenzo family’s stake at the disputed lands.
DAR has maintained it has the mandate to award the lands to the farmer beneficiaries.
In a press conference inside the farmers’ makeshift camp in Barangay San Isidro, Tagum City on Tuesday, Mariano explained that under Section 50 of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or Republic Act 6657, the DAR has quasi-judicial powers.
“DAR clearly has quasi-judicial power and exclusive jurisdiction in all issues involving the implementation of the agrarian reform program. Only the Supreme Court may issue a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of DAR’s decision,” he said.
“The lower court has no jurisdiction,” Mariano added.
In its website, the DAR said Section 50 of Republic Act 6657 (1988) and Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 29-2002 “state that the DAR is vested with primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform, EXCEPT those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).”
The law further grants DAR the power to summon witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, require submission of reports, compel the production of books and documents and answers to interrogatories and issue subpoena, and enforce its writs through sheriffs or other duly deputized officers.
DAR also has the power to punish “direct and indirect contempt in the same manner and subject to the same penalties as provided in the Rules of Court.”
DAR carries out its quasi-judicial power at the provincial, regional, national levels by the Provincial and Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicators, and the DAR Adjudication Board under the Office of the Secretary.
For its part, the National Democratic Front Southern Mindanao scored the PNP for its “brazen complicity” with Lapanday when Police Chief Gaerlan “bald-facedly defied the DAR order to disarm LFC’s company guards and ignored the DAR’s installation activity.”
Rubi del Mundo, NDF spokesperson said “the Lorenzos can get away with shielding their greedy business interests by using the PNP to counteract the peasants’ militant action undermine the GRP’s own Department of Agrarian Reform.”
NDF added that Pres. Duterte should “pave the way for the immediate occupation of the farmer-beneficiaries and make good on the promise of his peace panel to jointly sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms and distribute lands freely nationwide.”(davaotoday.com)