MANILA, Philippines -- Farmers in Murcia, Negros Occidental came a step closer to finally owning land they have been tilling after Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano denied for “lack of merit” a motion from the provincial government to reconsider an earlier ruling by his predecessor Virgilio de los Reyes to subject the Negros First Ranch to land reform.Mariano said the motion for partial reconsideration filed by the provincial government, represented by Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr., lacked merit.
The decision was released Wednesday following a visit by Mariano to Bacolod where he met with the farmers and Maranon.
It will place some 205 hectares of Hacienda Ilimnan in Barangays Sta. Rosa and Canlandog, the bulk of which the provincial government purchased from its former owners, the Arguelles family, and converted into a cattle and sheep ranch as part of its food security program, under coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
De los Reyes had earlier denied a motion from the provincial government to exclude the land from agrarian reform.
It remains unclear if the provincial government will also contest Mariano’s order.
Mariano said during his meeting with Maranon Saturday, which was closed to media, he had the impression that the governor’s position not to give up the ranch was “non-negotiable.”
The DAR secretary earlier explained Ilimnan could not be exempted from CARP because the purchase did not include a deed of transfer.
During their dialogue with Mariano, also on Saturday, Danilo Tabora, chairman of the Barangay-Wide Farmers and Farmworkers Association, said they have been waiting to own the land since it was approved for distribution in 1988.
However, a year after the provincial government bought Ilimnan in 2010, he said, “was saw ourpalayfarmers bulldozed and we were kept out of the property by police, the military and even the RPA (Revolutionary Proletarian Army),” an armed group that broke away from the New People’s Army in the early 1990s.
Aside from losing control of the land, he added, “we also lost our jobs.”
Tabora said once they finally claim ownership of the land, they intend to sue the provincial government for the dislocation and the destruction of their homes and farms.
The Ilimnan farmers, who have been camping out at the provincial capitol for around a month, said they would not leave until they are assured they will actually get the land.