Farmers blame DAR exec for failed ‘installation’ in Davao estate

Aug. 22, 2007

GOV. GENEROSO, Davao OrientalSeventeen farmers have blamed Undersecretary for Field Operations Narciso Nieto for failure of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) last July 13 to install them in the 29-hectare Arcal Estate in Barangay Magdug here.

We blame Narciso Nieto, DAR undersecretary for field operations, for holding the scheduled installation for a special meeting with [Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary] Manuel Gerochi to tackle the double titling issue in ARCAL Estate, the farmers belonging to Magdug Farmers and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (MFARBA) said in a position paper.

We consider this move as a manipulation to [delay] the installation. It appears that DAR is putting weight on the 10 free patent titles issued by the DENR to the 10 grandchildren, who are of minor age, of Antonio Garcia, owner of Arcal Development Corporation, they added.

Celestino de la Torre, chairman of MFARBA, said the July 13 installation was publicly promised by DAR Region XI Director Rodolfo Inson.

Director Inson announced the installation before members of the mass media who covered the blood compact that we staged in front of DAR Region XI office last June 6. It gave up hope that after nine years of waiting, we would finally achieve our dream, De la Torre said.

He said Nieto should explain to them why he scrapped the scheduled installation in favor of a meeting with the DENR, which took place on July 19, where they agreed to look for other lands that the farmer-beneficiaries could cultivate while the case was being litigated in court.

We may be open to such an option, but our position right now is not to sacrifice our claim to the 29 hectares. If DAR and DENR are sincere about giving us land, they should conduct an investigation and inventory of the other properties of Arcal, said De la Torre.

He said that aside from the property in Magdug, Arcal also owns big tracts of land in other barangays in Governor Generoso and on Balot Island in the province of Sarangani.

In Barangay Magdug alone, aside from the controversial 29 hectares, Arcal also owns 22 more hectares. An area of some 130 hectares of timberland in Sitio Jawon, Magdug, is also claimed by Arcal. It also owns tracts of land in neighboring barangays43 hectares in Nangan, 22 hectares in Surop, 36 hectares in Pundaguitan, and 65 hectares in Lavigan, and hundreds of hectares of coconut lands on Balot Island, he said.

The 29-hectare Arcal estate, mainly planted to coconut and bananas, was placed under coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in August 1997, and the farmer-beneficiaries were issued by DAR a CLOA in December 1998.

However, one month before the issuance of CLOA, the DENR issued free patent titles over the property in favor of Garcias 10 grandchildren.

The issuance of free patent titles was based on the deed of conveyance executed earlier between original landholder Conchita Matute-Cunanan and Arcal Development Corporation.

Celestino said they filed before the DAR Adjudication Board a petition for annulment of the deed of conveyance, and the DARAB had ruled twice that the deed of conveyance was null and void since it violated section 6, paragraph 4 of Republic Act 6657.

Said law states that any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of position of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of this Act shall be null and void: Provided, however, that those executed prior to this Act shall be valid only when registered with the Register of Deeds within a period of three (3) months after the effectivity of this Act. Thereafter, all registers of deeds shall inform the DAR within thirty (30) days of any transaction involving agricultural lands in excess of five (5) hectares.

However, Arcal contested the decision in the appeals court, which decided in favor of Arcal. The farmer-beneficiaries filed a motion for reconsideration, which is pending resolution.

De la Torre said DAR should recognize their CLOA and the DARAB decision, and should install them in their land since the court did not issue an injunction or a restraining order.

We believe we have the full right as CLOA holders to be in possession of the land awarded to us nine years ago, he said.

De la Torre said the land case in Arcal estate may come to the similar situation as the contentious case in Hacienda Velez-Malaga in Negros Occidental, where the 11-year land dispute had already resulted in three deaths and several others wounded.

Our case may go the way of Hacienda Velez-Malaga since Arcal estate maintains armed security guards and is ready to use force against our claim, said De la Torre.

He said that during their attempt in September last year to enter and occupy their land, security guards of Arcal opened fire at them.

Our entry was coordinated properly with the municipal government and the national police. A troop was deployed in the area, but we were surprised when they were not anymore in the site when the shooting happened. We scampered for safety and hid behind grasses as the firing went on for 20 minutes, De la Torre said.

He said that as a result of that incident, they were arrested on charges of grave coercion and forcible entry. We spent five days in jail until we asked for the help of Task Force Mapalad, which raised funds for our bail, he said.(30)

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