We are sharing this news article, dated 1 December 2016, by Task Force Mapalad (TFM).
Agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), once awarded with Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs), will now be legally entitled to own and manage the lands they till. But what if their CLOAs, ready to be awarded, were kept secret from them for ten years?
ARBs of Barangay Bacagay in the town of San Dionisio, Iloilo are seeking for action of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano to address the land conflict in the municipality and stop the illegal conversion of agricultural landholdings in the province before the situation worsens into violence and death due to stiff landlord resistance.
On 28 November 2006, DAR, under the Aquino Administration, was supposed to award the 74-hectare landholdings to the farmers of Bacagay Farmers’ Association and to the ARBs in the villages of Manduawak and Cubay. And in August 2015, during a meeting with the then San Dionisio Mayor Peter Paul Lopez, while farmers just then knew that they should have long been owned the land; it has already been, in fact, being converted for a housing project with the National Housing Authority (NHA). The housing project was said to be for the typhoon Yolanda victims including them where they will be paying Php 500 monthly for each unit.
Government records show that the Sangguniang Bayan of San Dionisio reclassified the 74-hectare property into non-agricultural use and that in August 2015, the municipal council authorized then Mayor Lopez to sign a memorandum of agreement with the NHA for the construction of a 3,400-unit housing project in the land owned by the farmers.
During the same period, then Bacagay barangay chairman Eugenio Eusebio, armed with a .45-caliber gun, went to the farmers’ residences and to the houses of other CLOA holders and forced them to sign unknown documents, which they later found out as waivers to the farmers’ right over their CARP-awarded land.
After the farmers disowned the documents that Eugenio Eusebio forced them to sign, the latter had a steel gate built along a supposedly public road in Bagacay that leads to the farm and houses of the CLOA holders.
Former San Dionisio Mayor and Bacagay Barangay Captain are both among of the heirs of Carlo Lopez, the former landowner of the 74-hectare farm.
In April 2016, after receiving a complaint from the farmers, Ombudsman suspended Eugenio Eusebio for eight month as barangay chairman and found then Mayor Lopez liable for misconduct after threatening the farmers with their guns.
In September 2016, DAR Region VI Director Gideon Umadhay issued a cease and desist order against the on-going construction in the 74-hectare property, saying the conversion of the landholding for housing purposes was premature and illegal because it did not have clearance from the DAR.
Despite the ruling of the DAR regional director, and amidst the land conversion moratorium being enforced by the department under Secretary Mariano and President Rodrigo Duterte’s watch, the CLOA holders remain uninstalled in the 74-hectare property, which is continuously being developed into a housing project.
Bacagay Farmer Association leader insists that while it is true that they would be needing housing, it is as important for them to have a secure land tenure where they get their livelihoods from.
Related link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL1WIESvr0g&feature=youtu.be
Contributor: Lanie Factor of TFM