TAGUM CITY, Philippines — Hundreds of farmers were dismayed as they were prevented from taking over awarded lands today, following the failure of the local police to provide security and to aid the Agrarian Reform Secretary in installing the beneficiaries and their families.
Members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (Marbai) were told by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano that the Writ of Installation is moved to Friday, April 21, at which time the police is expected to execute an operational plan to disarm company guards and avert violence at the disputed lands.
Salvador Barcebal, 60, Marbai vice chairperson said they are dismayed with the recent development, saying now that “(N)ow that the decision of DAR favored us, Lapanday may have a hand and is now using tactics to delay the execution of the (installation) order.”
Armed company guards reportedly numbering from 700 to 800 were seen at the freshly fortified gates of the banana plantation farm here, as the farmer beneficiaries and their supporters waited for the scheduled installation today.
During a pre-installation meeting held at the provincial office of DAR yesterday, the interagency group called for a composite of some 200 police and Army to ensure peaceful installation of the agrarian reform beneficiaries including the disarming of the company guards inside the farm.
However, PRO 11 Police Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan wrote the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 to seek clarification whether they abide with its earlier alias Writ of Execution favoring Lapanday’s contract with the farmers or to comply with DAR’s Writ of installation that in effect, nullifies Lapanday’s stake at the disputed lands.
DAR Secretary Mariano, who arrived in Davao City at 10 am today to install the farmers, came to the makeshift camp where farmers were staying at around 4:45 pm, hours after a meeting at the Provincial Capitol with the police and local agencies.
In that meeting with the LGU, Mariano told the local government representatives that it is his mandate to execute land reform and his installation order was legal and legitimate.
Mariano stressed that only DAR has the jurisdiction over agrarian cases.
“DAR has quasi-judicial power. DAR has enough power to execute the Writ of Installation,” he added.
Mariano said the court could not put under its jurisdiction the Writ he issued.
“The judge cannot issue a clarification immediately because DAR issued a motion for intervention for the court to quash the said alias Writ for Execution due to lack of jurisdiction,” he said.
Mariano said if the PNP would assert on waiting the said clarification from the court “it will not come within this week.”
Mariano said he will write PNP Director General Ronald Dela Rosa of DAR’s plan to execute the Writ of Installation on Friday.
He said the police requested for a week to postpone the installation and make an operational plan, but he told them that they should do so after three days.
Mariano said he will come back to Tagum City on Friday to attend the installation.
Clear the area
Alex Roldan, provincial director of the Department of Interior and Local Government in Davao del Norte said Davao del Norte Governor Anthony Del Rosario wanted the PNP to clear the area first before the farmers return to their lands.
“The governor wanted that before the farmers are installed, the police will have to clear the area first,” he said during a radio interview.
He said the governor wants to ensure that once the farmers return to their farms they will not be evicted anymore like what happened on December 31, 2016 when alleged guards of Lapanday evicted the farmers.
Nine farmers were wounded in a shooting incident last December when the farmers attempted to occupy the banana plantation.
DAR’s Mariano said on Friday morning, he will convene an interagency meeting which will include representatives from the Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Commission on Human Rights, Public Attorney’s Office, local government unit and the DILG to discuss and plan on their participation on the actual and post-installation of the farmers.
He said he is expecting that the PNP will stay for around two weeks to ensure that the farmers will not be evicted again once they are installed.
He added that he will report to President Rodrigo Duterte what happened during the supposed installation of farmers when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council convenes. (davaotoday.com)