MADAUM AGRARIAN REFORM BENEFICIARIES ASSOCIATION INC. FARMERS GET BACK 145-HECTARE LAPANDAY FARM
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Thursday led the peaceful reinstallation of 159 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) as rightful owners of the 145-hectare contested San Isidro (Sanid) farm area inside the former Hijo Plantation.
Backed by supporters from other sectors, the farmers, who brought with them their personal belongings, entered the banana farm at around 10:30 a.m after Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) sheriff Adelaido Caminade served the writ of installation and cleared the area of Lapanday guards.
Security was tight with police and military personnel securing the area to avoid violent confrontation between the farmers and company guards.
The farmers have been picketing near the gate of Sanid farm since the Mendiola camping.
Augusto Pamolino, who was one of the MARBAI supporters, said the members have finally achieved their objective.
“Dili lang sila ang malipayon kami pud (They are not the only ones happy but all of us),” Pamolino said.
In an interview, Secretary Mariano said the meeting of President Rodrigo Duterte with MARBAI members in Mendiola was the biggest factor leading to the successful reinstallation of the farmers.
”It gave a strong push to install back the farmers, who have now rights over the contested land,” Mariano said. Mariano was also set to meet with the other group, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1), which has a standing agreement with MARBAI.
Thursday’s reinstallation was the fourth attempt of DAR to put back the farmers after the December 14, 2016 attempt. A security incident happened on December 31, 2016 when farmers were reportedly harassed by security guards. After December, DAR issued a writ of installation on April 18 followed by an initial clearing operations on April 21, but these were contested by Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC), which sought a local court’s intervention.
Mariano said the request for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with preliminary injunction was denied.
It may be recalled that the President asked Lapanday to turn over lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries, end violent attacks against the farmers and implement a genuine reform program.
After the Mendiola dialogue between President Duterte and MARBAI, LFC expressed support to the call of the President to let the rule of law prevail over land issues.
The company agrees with President Duterte that when parties understand each other and are willing to discuss the resolution of issues, the best solution is attained with no need to resort to the courts to resolve them,” said Lapanday in a press statement sent by Bruce Laguesma, Lapanday Diversified Products Corporation (LDPC) Cluster Manager.
According to Lapanday, it obtained a final and executory Order as early as September 2011 that “put to finish” the controversy by approving the compromise agreement of the company and HEARBCO-1, where the members of MARBAI were originally part of.
Mariano said MARBAI and HEARBCO-1 has a standing agreements and at the same time HEARBCO has also an agreement with Lapanday.
Last April, the reinstallation of the farmers were postponed to ensure the safety of both the implementing officials and the farmers.
Mariano assured the farmers of assistance from various government agencies.
He said an inter-agency Task Force MARBAI will be established to assist the farmers. Besides the Department of Agrarian Reform, the task force will be composed of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Commission on Human Rights, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health and the Provincial Governor’s and City Mayor’s offices.