MANILA, Philippines – Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano will install on Thursday, May 18, the farmers displaced from their awarded lands on San Isidro Farm in Tagum, Davao del Norte, being managed by Lapanday Food Corporation (LFC).
Mariano requested President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an order to government agencies in the region, especially the local government of Davao del Norte and the police, to assist them in the installation. The installation will facilitate the physical takeover of the awarded lands to the farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaires Incorporated (Marbai).This comes afterPresident Rodrigo Duterte told Mariano to proceed with the installationwhen he visited the Mindanao-based farmers camped outside Malacañang during the first week of May. The farmers were then staging a protest against LFC’s defiance to DAR’s installation order.
During the celebration of Labor Day on May 1, Duterte also warned oligarchs to return government lands to the people.
Two Failed Attempts
Last April 18 and 21,DAR attempted to install the 159 Marbai farmers, who own the 0.79-hectare portion of the 145-hectare plantation but were evicted from their lands in 2011. The banana farmers received their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) back in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The initiative failed when Davao del Norte police did not mobilize its forces to facilitate a peaceful installation. DAR earlier reported that the LFC had sent some 800 armed security guards to barricade the farm area. Local police cited the lack of operational plan for refusing to provide security.
LFC has maintained that Mariano’s installation order contradicts with a December 9, 2015,ruling of the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 14that LFC has the right to manage and possess the farm area.
They also argued that DAR cannot install the Marbai farmers because the agency has already awarded the land to the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (Hearbco-1).
Hearbco-1 was the mother group of the Marbai farmers. Marbai members broke away from it because they did not want to engage in another contract with the LFC. Hearbco-1 currently has a contract with the LFC that allows it to manage portions of the plantation.
LFC also claims the farmers voluntarily left their lands and were not evicted in 2011.
But Mariano has stressed that lower courts has no jurisdiction over agrarian reform concerns because DAR performs quasi-judicial functions under Section 50 of the CARP law or Republic Act 6657.
“Only the Supreme Court can overrule the writ of installation I have issued. Until then, I will not stop until the farmers reclaim actual physical possession and control of the land that is legally theirs,” said Mariano.
Aside from the installation order,DAR has also slapped LFC with a cease and desist orderin December 2016 after LFC reportedly evicted the remaining Marbai farmers there by force. – Rappler.com