MADAUM, Tagum City — The 159 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) reclaimed their rights to 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 the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) sheriff Adelaido Caminade served the writ of installation and cleared the area of Lapanday guards.
Policemen were also on the ground to support the DAR. They were requested to provide round-the-clock security to all agrarian reform beneficiaries and relatives before, during, and after the installation activities and to clear the San Isidro area in Barangay Madaum of booby traps; disarm and clear the area of armed LFI guards; remove all foxholes and sniper areas; establish mobile checkpoints; and establishment temporary but round-the-clock police and military detachments in the area for 60 days after the installation.
The farmers have been picketing since they camped out in Mendiola in Manila.
Augusto Pamolino, 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),” he said.
In an interview, DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano said the meeting of President Duterte with MARBAI members in Mendiola was the biggest factor leading to the successful re-installation of the farmers.
“It gave a strong push to install back the farmers, who have now the rights of 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). HEARBCO has a standing agreement with MARBAI.
Thursday’s re-installation was the fourth attempt of DAR to re-install the farmers after the December 14, 2016 attempt. But a security incident happened on December 31, 2016 when farmers were reportedly harassed by company guards. After December, DAR issued a writ of installation on April 18 followed by 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 what he said was a genuine reform program.
After the Mendiola dialogue between Duterte and MARBAI, LFC expressed support to the call of the President to let the rule of law prevail over land issues.
The company said it agrees with the President “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.”
“As a good corporate citizen, Lapanday has always stood by what is just and fair. The company is steadfast in exercising only what is legal and lawful, which President Duterte said is part of his legacy, to uphold “justice for all,” a statement said.
According to Lapanday, it obtained a “final and executory” order as early as September 2011 that “put to finish” to 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 have standing agreements. At the same time, HEARBCO has an agreement with Lapanday.
Last April ,the reinstallation of the farmers was postponed to ensure the safety of both the implementing officials and the farmers.
Meanwhile, Mariano said the farmers are assured of assistance from government agencies to help them.
He said there is an inter-agency task force where all heads of concerned implementing agencies of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) are directed to pitch in the installation activities.
The inter-agency task force would be named “MARBAI Task Force.” Besides DAR, it will be comprised of the Departments of Agriculture, Social Welfare, Justice, Health, Local Government, theCommission on Human Rights, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the Provincial Governor’s and City Mayor’s Offices. Ayan C. Mellejor