MANILA — Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano has issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) and its security guards from evicting farmers who have reclaimed a 145-hectare banana plantation in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City, that was awarded to them in 1996 under the agrarian reform program.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) announced the order three days after seven farmers were hurt, two of them critically, when guards reportedly opened fire at the encamped farmers who have organized themselves into the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) cooperative.
Mariano also ordered DAR Region 12 director John Maruhom and Davao del Norte provincial agrarian reform program officer Jocelyn Seno to coordinate with the Philippine National Police to file cases against the assailants.
The former militant peasant leader also ordered the DAR officials to get police and military assistance to secure the farmers from further harassment.
MARBAI president Mely Yu wrote on December 13 asking Mariano to intervene after several of their members were injured in a series of assaults by alleged LFC security guards on December 12.
On December 14, at least three more people were reportedly wounded and several others including women were reportedly held hostage by LFC guards.
DAR described Lapanday as a “multi-billion export company of tropical products such as bananas and pineapples” owned by several parties, including former agriculture secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo.
In 1996, DAR awarded the farmers with a collective certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) that gave each of the 159 farmer-beneficiaries a 7,900-square-meter-lot in the banana plantation.
Last October, Mariano visited the farmers, who were already camped out at the gate of the LFC compound. He promised the farmers DAR would push for their peaceful occupation of the lands.
According to Yu, they were forced to enter a banana sales and marketing agreement with LFC, which buys their products for export.
She said they were tricked into selling high-grade bananas for a lower price, so farmers have only been earning P2,000 monthly.
She said the agreement has caused the farmer beneficiaries to accumulate a debt of almost P1 billion with LFC. SFM