Philippines: Sumilao farmers pin hopes on Pangandaman

Nov. 30, 2007

Ref. Heidi Fernandez0920-9005087
November 30, 2007

Sumilao farmers pin hopes on Pangandaman

Farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon said they now have
great hopes that their demand for issuance by the
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of a
cease-and-desist against San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI)
will be addressed soon.

The farmers, who are on their final leg of a
1,700-kilometer Walk for Justice from Bukidnon to
Manila, made the statement following yesterdays
dialogue with DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman where
he reportedly said that the issuance of a
cease-and-desist order is a great possibility.

Socrates Banzuela, coordinator of Lakaw Sumilao
network, said Pangandaman was positively responsive to
the farmers demand.

The secretary said he will review the Sumilao case
and visit the contested area soon. We expect him to
make a decision before the marchers arrive in Manila
next week since he has express order from Malacaang
to do so, said Banzuela.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in a resolution
dated November 16, 2007, had remanded to DAR the
Sumilao case, saying that DAR is a trier of facts and
is in a better position to assess and evaluate the
credibility of the contending parties and the validity
of their respective evidence.

The farmers want the DAR to stop SMFI from
constructing a hog farm on the contested 144-hectare
agricultural land in San Vicente, Sumilao formerly
owned by Norberto Quisumbing.

At least 165 farmers are petitioning for the
redistribution of the property under the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The property was approved for conversion to
agro-industrial uses in 1994 through an order issued
by then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres.

The Supreme Court upheld Torres decision in 1999,
resulting in the cancellation of the Certificate of
Land Ownership Award (CLOA) of the 165
farmer-beneficiaries belonging to the group called

However, the farmers said the landowner did not comply
with the terms of the conversion order, which included
implementing a five-year agro-industrial development
plan. Instead, landowner Quisumbing had the land
registered under a new title and sold it to SMFI in
February 2002.

The farmers filed a petition before the DAR in 2004
for cancellation of the conversion order on account of
the landowners violation, but Pangandaman in 2006
denied the petition saying he lacked jurisdiction and
that the power is lodged with the Office who issued
the [conversion] order.

The farmers appealed to the Office of the President,
which initially upheld Pangandamans decision, saying
that the farmer-petitioners lacked legal standing.

The farmers filed a motion for reconsideration, which
Ermita granted saying that remanding the case back to
DAR is but appropriate under the circumstances.

Banzuela said Malacaangs decision clearly recognized
the legitimacy of the farmers petition for
redistribution of the former Quisumbing property.

Banzuela said Pangandaman has very little reason now
to make an excuse and ignore the demand of the Sumilao

Its time the DAR made up for its abandonment of the
farmers in 1999, when it failed to file on time a
motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court,
which upheld the conversion order on technical
grounds, said Bansuela.(30)

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