MANILA, Philippines — Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Wednesday voided the sale and leasing out of Hacienda Luisita farm lots awarded by the government to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“This is a decisive action to defend and assert the rights of farmers to own and cultivate their awarded farm lots,” Mariano said.
Mariano issued the statement after a fact-finding inquiry by his office, conducted from March to April of this year, found that 83 percent or around 4,000 out of the 5,212 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac were not cultivating the farmlands awarded to them.
The inquiry showed that 2,841 ARBs have leased, mortgaged or rented out their lands, while more than 600 ARBs have sold their lots to third-party buyers.
Almost 200 ARBs have been made to engage in joint-venture agreements, the DAR inquiry further noted.]
“The study revealed that local politicians, utilizing an illicit leaseback system known as 'aryendo', have duped thousands of cash-strapped agrarian reform beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita into letting go of farm lots already awarded to them,” Mariano said.
Mariano maintained that the selling and leasing out of Hacienda Luisita lots is illegal as the farm beneficiaries' Certificates of Land Ownership Awards or CLOAs explicitly state that the lots cannot be sold or leased out within ten years after the award.
“The practice of aryendo is illegal and a willful and deliberate obstruction in the delivery of the agrarian reform program,” Mariano said.
Mariano said the government will “throw the full force of the law” against those that would defy his order.
“We urge those who were forced to lease or sell their lots to hold their ground. DAR will help them fight the illegal practice of aryendo,” Mariano said.
Mariano slammed the aryendadors or “buyers” of the farm lands which are mostly wealthy local politicians and businessmen for “preying on the weaknesses of agrarian reform beneficiaries.”
'Aryenderos' took advantage of farmers' hardships
Based on the DAR inquiry, aryendadors gained possession of the awarded Hacienda Luisita lands when farmer-beneficiaries faced financial difficulties owing to lack of funds for producing crops or when there was an illness in the family
Mariano said that beneficiaries in Barangay Pando alone, admitted that they are leasing out their awarded lots for P7,000 a year to a “prominent political clan in Tarlac.”
Mariano, meanwhile, lauded the farmers who are standing their ground against the aryendadors and are now cultivating the land awarded to them.
Mariano noted that in Barangay Bantog, 117 out of 236 agrarian reform beneficiaries are still actual cultivators of their farm lots that are now devoted to vegetables, rice, and corn production.
“DAR recognizes the sacrifices and efforts of farmer-beneficiaries who remained in possession of their awarded lands. This is to honor and give justice to the families of vistims of Hacienda Luisita massacre as the Cojuangco Aquino continue to maneuver to circumvent the SC decision,” Mariano said.