“No amount of propaganda and bashing from the gadflies and political opposition can hide the evidence of action by a government department head.
Let’s take a peek at the land history of the place. A swath of land in the city is part of a military reservation. Camp Amaipakpak (formerly Camp Keithely) is a former United States military base constructed during the Philippine-American war in the early part of the 20th century. On 23 December 1953, former Philippine President Elpidio Quirino issued Presidential Proclamation 453 converting the 6,667-hectare area into a military reserve.
Presently, however, only few hectares are occupied by the military Kampo Ranao and Philippine National Police camp. The rest has been released to some agencies of government like Mindanao State University, while a bulk of the land is illegally occupied by “squatter-residents.
”The unlettered original occupiers have no inkling about their irregular land grab. Some enterprising con artists sold these lands to innocent residents without divulging that they cannot title the land.
The residents have long held the belief that they owned the land they presently occupy. They will shed their blood in defense of their occupation. They will fight government if it attempts to take back the land. There were promises from national officials to settle the issue of ownership, including the release of the land to occupants but nothing came out of it until the Marawi war happened.
When government war planes rained the city with their diurnal bombing, which flattened a swath of the city into rubble, the displaced residents sought refuge to nearby houses of their relatives occupying the military reserve. The diaspora has put to fore the need to settle ownership over the lands.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has come to the rescue. The DAR solution is simply to award soonest possible the lands to legitimate occupant-claimants to ease the pain of loss and languor.
DAR Secretary John Castriciones, a lawyer, invoked the department’s legislative mandate and Executive Order 75 issued by President Duterte to solve the problem. Under the said order, all government instrumentalities were directed to identify lands owned by the government devoted or suitable for agricultural purposes for distribution to qualified beneficiaries.
The unassuming secretary, who is more on action than rhetoric and who is apparently not fond of issuing “praise releases,” led his team for an ocular inspection of Camp Amaipakpak in Marawi City and nearby areas to jumpstart the process of land distribution to qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB). He held meetings and consultations with heads of local government units, sultans, datus and other cultural leaders to facilitate their mission — legalize the occupancy of the residents over the military reserve.
In his recent visit to Marawi City accompanied by his team of officials and staff, he conveyed to Mayor Majul Gandamra his mission, empathy to residents and the order of the President to address that particular problem of the Marawi residents.
He posthaste issued special orders and memorandum organizing DAR officials and employees into Task Force Camp Keithley Military Reservation. They are tasked to conduct a survey, investigate and vet the claimants and prepare documents for the issuance of title of ownership as ARB. It helps that one of his active undersecretaries is lawyer Carim Panumpang, a native of the place and chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Task force.
The gesture of Secretary Castriciones to prioritize the solution to the problems of the Maranaws will go a long way in affirming to the minoritized segment of our society the concern of government for their welfare. It is a restatement of the mandate of DAR and the Duterte administration to render justice to those who have less in life — ethnic minorities.
This is the best messaging about the works of government. To see is to believe. No amount of propaganda and bashing from the gadflies and political opposition can hide the evidence of action by a government department head like Secretary Castriciones.
Is it too early to say thank you to Secretary Casriciones?