Earlier last week, while most of us are into the slapping fiasco between presidential candidates Mar Roxas and Rody Duterte, the peasants in Compostela Valley are fighting for their land, fighting for their lives.
In Sitio Patinay, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo Compostela Valley a total of 21.6373 hectares of land is being disputed between the beneficiaries and the land-grabber Gerardo Cuares. The disputed land was originally owned by Martin Mercado and awarded to the 22 farmer beneficiaries through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
On November 17, 2014, a day after the 10th year anniversary of the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre, Engr. Gerardo Cuares forcibly entered the farmlands. Along with Ranulfo Laurente and Elmer Sugala and four hired laborers. Around 900 banana suckers were uprooted and more than 20 coconut trees were cut down by the group of Cuares. The following day, Cuares’ group planted corn at the area of Mrs. Juliet Mesa one of the beneficiaries, eventually expanding his occupation on the land.
Cuares, the land grabber, the son-in-law of Martin Mercado, insisted to claim the land and contested the ownership. There were two basic assertions of Mr. Cuares: 1. That he acquired the land through a deed of sale that was executed in June 3, 1981 and; 2. That he claimed for a retention of the aforementioned parcel of land.
The deed of sale was ruled out to be null and void for it was not registered at the Register of Deeds. Secondly on the retention claim, Mr. Cuares already claimed a retention in Luzon.
On November 25, 2014, the DAR regional office through its Regional Director John M. Maruhom issued and order the dismissal of Mr. Cuares’ claim for the lack of merit. A week after, Cuares sought for reconsideration, which was eventually denied for the lack of merit.
On December 7, 2015 the beneficiaries the rightful owner of the farmland once again engaged Mr. Cuares through a dialogue at the barangay covered court in Rizal, Monkayo. During the dialogue, which was brokered by the local government officials, there was no consensus made and Mr. Cuares insisted his claim despite the appeal of the local government officials.
After exhausting all legal and diplomatic means, the beneficiaries and the Rizal Farmers Association, a barangay Chapter of Monkayo Farmers Association-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, were more than determined to stand for their right and prepared for a KalMas a shorthand term for Kalihukang Mag-Uuma/Kalihukang Masa or peasant movement to advance their right.
On December 15, the peasants started to put-up a camp, while dismantling the fence that was illegally installed by Cuares and his minions as they gallantly declared the first day of the Kalihukang Mag-uuma: Balik-Tikad Campaign to re-claim what is rightfully theirs.
More than 100 farmers from Monkayo and nearby town Compostela camped-out and supported the Balik-Tikad Campaign in solidarity with the beneficiaries and Rizal Farmers Association legitimate claim. During their three day camp-out the farmers victoriously cleared more than three hectares of land, around 1,000 banana suckers and corn seeds were planted on their communal farm.
It is timely now to discuss key points on the significance of the KalMas in Brgy. Rizal than to dwell on the slapping fiasco of Roxas and Duterte.
First, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its subsequent Extension and Reforms (CARP and CARPER) is too weak to resolve land dispute in a predominantly semi-feudal country. Thus, it is imperative for us to push for a genuine land reform program like the one being pushed by Bayan Muna’s Rep. Neri Colmenares. We need to legislate the HB 252 known as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
Second, the decisiveness towards victory lies on the people’s resolute commitment to safeguard their right to till the land. Third, the united and collective effort of the peasantry can definitely defeat a single greedy landlord. If not for their united assertion against the land-grabber Cuares until this day their lands are still being trespassed.
Despite this victory, there is a pressing need to be more vigilant, especially with the treacherous character of the landlord class. Vigilance entails both somatic and ideological combat footing. We won our first base, now is the time take the second, or the third and until victory! In Che Guevarra’s words: Hasta la Victoria siempre!