AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said their agency is looking into Negros Occidental Governor Marañon Jr.’s involvement in the claim of farmers to a portion of the Capitol-owned Negros First Ranch at Hacienda Ilimnan in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia.The farmers had sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We are in the process of investigating complaints against Governor Marañon on the alleged unjust eviction of farmers to develop the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm,” Mariano said in a news release posted in the DAR website Friday.
“According to reports, Gov. Marañon allegedly resorted to harassment and intimidation using government troops after DAR issued a decision in favor of the farmers,” it added.
The report also noted that last May, the DAR’s Land Use Case Division-Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance denied the provincial government’s petition for exemption/exclusion on the said landholdings.
According to DAR, farm workers embarked on land cultivation of around 12 hectares in Hacienda Ilimnan for food crops “to ease extreme hunger and poverty in the community due to the annual ‘tiempo muerto,’ or off-milling season. This year’s ‘tiempo muerto’ is aggravated by drought caused by El Niño.”
The 12-hectare area is part of the 155-hectare property previously owned by the Arguelles family who sold the land to the Provincial Government in 2010.
“Since then, the land has become a subject of a long-running legal battle between supposed land reform beneficiaries composed of hacienda workers and the provincial government which supposedly developed the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm,” the DAR statement said.
Mariano vowed that he would free farmer-tenants from the grips of landlord-oligarchs under his leadership.
He said that “not all landlords are created equal. Some have really big landholdings. And they form the bastion of the landlord-oligarchy.”
He cited Negros as the traditional playground of caciques and landlords since the Spanish colonial period.
“It is the bastion of haciendas where farm workers are still enslaved by hunger and poverty, and are being threatened, shot at, and massacred by goons and soldiers,” he said.
Mariano added: “The new DAR is determined to implement genuine agrarian reform, including free land distribution or land distributed at least cost to farmers.”
Since July 15, the farmers have been camping out outside the Provincial Capitol building in Bacolod City.
They are seeking to have a dialogue with Marañon, who had said he would not entertain the farmers since it’s useless to have a dialogue with them.
Earlier, the Provincial Government lost its petition to exclude the property from Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) coverage, based on the ruling of the DAR.
This prompted the farmers of Hacienda Ilimnan Farm Workers Association, along with the support of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW)-Negros and its allied groups, to hold rally as they insisted that they are beneficiaries of the property.
Human chain, noise barrage
Some 500 sugar farm workers from different cities and towns trooped to the Provincial Capitol Friday to seek assistance from the provincial government as they were affected by “tiempo muerto,” or dead season.
They formed a human chain in the middle of Gatuslao Street, which had caused traffic to motorists after they occupied one lane, and held a noise barrage by clanking the fence and gates of the government building.
They are calling the provincial government to utilize the P40-million Quick Response Fund intended for those affected by the drought since the province declared a state of calamity last April.
Moreover, they called on the Provincial Government to pull out the armed goons at Hacienda Ilimnan, as they accused Marañon as land grabber.