DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Several Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in this region expressed dismay after Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) officials failed to meet their demand to release “long overdue” installation orders.
Billy Cabintoy, ARB One Movement (AOM) secretary-general, said that they were expecting DAR officials to heed their call since all legal requirements and processes have been done. What’s left is for the agency to enforce the program for agrarian reform.
“There was a disagreement during the dialogue because we were expecting that DAR officials went here with the knowledge about our cases. The problem is they were still asking for the status and pertinent documents although these cases were filed in their office long time ago,” Cabintoy told DavaoToday in an interview on Tuesday, October 3.
Cabintoy is one of the 256 ARBs under the Wadecor Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (WEARBAI) that claim 170 hectares of banana area and at least 125 hectares of citrus land in Carmen, Davao del Norte in the area managed by the Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc (TADECO). The company is owned by the Floirendos.
According to Cabintoy, the land in Carmen was under Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1988. But Tadeco filed a deferment period delaying the distribution process for ten years.
Ten years later, DAR issued a notice of coverage but the company created an employees’ cooperative that divides the farmer-beneficiaries. Cabintoy said some signed a contract with the cooperative and continued to work as a worker of the company, but others opted to join the association to claim their lands.
In September 2008, Cabintoy said that a Supreme Court order was released stating that the CARP coverage is for immediate implementation. However, 10 years have gone but no farmer benefited from the agrarian program.
Since September 27, hundreds of farmer-beneficiaries from different ARB organizations in the region picketed in front of DAR’s provincial office in Tagum City, asking the new DAR leadership to distribute lands to the ARBs.
On Tuesday, the farmers had a dialogue with DAR officials led by Undersecretary Karlo S. Bello.
Leo Villareal, DAR’s Public Assistance and Media Relations Service Director, admitted that the agency has been facing difficulties in dealing with agrarian reform cases due to a change of leadership in the national down to the regional level.
“There are changes in the leadership and we are still retrieving pertinent documents submitted by ARBs before. So we asked for the farmers help us in retrieving the said files,” Villareal said.
Villareal said they met with the farmers with the mandate to “resolve the problems without any hesitations” and hopes that officials under former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano will cooperate in filling the limitations.
Cabintoy said that they are not against the legal process in coming up with decisions regarding agrarian reform – but the cases were “long overdue.”
DAR Regional Director Joseph H. Orilla admits there is a backlog in processing these cases as these items have to go through a web of processes.
“It’s due to technicalities, they said some [beneficiaries] were already old and others even died, leaders were changed but technicalities are the cause of delays,” Orilla said in a radio interview.
But Bello, a former Davao City Councilor, vowed that they will not stand in the way as “it is our mandate to distribute the lands if they are legally entitled to it.”
Amid this development, Cabintoy said the protests will continue until the installation orders are released.
“As agrarian reform beneficiaries, we don’t need to work as an employee of the company. We should till our own land and sell our own products,” he said. (davaotoday.com)