Letter to Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco
November 5, 2016
Ormoc Farmers Reaps First Harvest in CLOA-awarded Land
November 14, 2016

Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) exposed the vulnerabilities, in the changing climate, of the farming sector without land tenure security.

Months after Yolanda, the affected Farmer-Survivors in Leyte had difficulty accessing aid from both humanitarian groups and government agencies. During the multiple consultation meetings with the affected Farmer-Survivors in the municipalities of Barugo and Alangalang in 2014, the farmers told of the 12,055 Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) that remained undistributed to more or less 14,000 farmers covering 32,685 hectares in the 40 municipalities and three cities in Leyte. The list they held was that of the Inventory of CARP Scope (ICS), detailing the CLOAs that were generated between the years 2006 – 2008. The CLOAs in the list had been registered with the Registry of Deeds (ROD), but the said office refused to release the same pending DAR’s submission of documents supposedly necessary for the regular transfer of the property such as tax records, and others. Undocumented as farmers, they were excluded from receiving immediate support in order to rebuild their livelihood that were devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Lacking tenurial documents, farmers were also deprived of shelter reconstruction support as one of the requirements was the presentation of titles as evidence of land ownership. The lands covered by the undistributed CLOAs are government owned land, which should have made the distribution easier and without incident. Extending to other neighboring municipalities, farmers of Carigara, San Miguel and Jaro, also attested to non-receipt of the CLOAs listed in the ICS.

Further complicating the issue of the undistributed CLOAs, is the discovery of the farmers themselves of CLOAs issued to beneficiaries that may not qualify as Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, as provided for by RA6657, later amended by RA9700. In fact, two CLOAs were found to be issued to a regular employee of the DAR Provincial Office.

This is an anomalous situation. What was clear was the generation of the CLOAs were aimed at shoring up the accomplishments near the end of each year when these documents were generated. CLOAs are titles that should be in the hands of farmer-beneficiaries; DAR failed to fully explain this anomaly. An employee of DAR who requested anonymity revealed that during the years that the said CLOAs were generated, the province of Leyte topped the land distribution performance of DAR in the entire country.

As a rule, land tenure security of farmers is established by: (a) the certificate/s of title to the land based on the award to them of landholdings in accordance with different government programs that aim to “democratize” land ownership (e.g. Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) (institutionalized in 1987) and prior land reform programs, including government’s programs on the distribution of alienable and disposable public lands; (b) Leasehold Contracts between farmers and landowners, where the land is under tenancy arrangement (this is possible in the landowners’ retention areas or, otherwise in all cases where the land has not yet been the acquired/ distributed to farmer-beneficiaries). Those without such instruments fall into the category of informal/ undocumented occupants and are therefore excluded especially from permanent shelter and farm rehabilitation support. Unfortunately the exclusion adversely affects share tenants who, by policy and operation of law, should be considered leaseholders and afforded the same rights as the latter.

The campaign to release the Undistributed CLOAs have led the Farmer-Survivors to Manila, twice before the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (OPARR), with then Secretary Panfilo Lacson, and before the House Committee on Agrarian Reform (COCAR) of the 15th Congress, and Inter-Agency Dialogue facilitated by the Commission of Human Rights (CHR). These actions, coupled with relentless mobilizations and sustained engagement with various agencies, facilitated the release of around 6,000 CLOAs by ROD to DAR in March 2016. DAR Provincial Office, through the leadership of PARPO (Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer) Renato G. Badilla, who assumed office in March 2015, worked with the farmers, organized under KATARUNGAN – Eastern Visayas (Kilusan Para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan) – a mass movement counting 5,000 farmer/fisher folks/informal settler members across the provinces of Leyte and Eastern Samar, in re-validation of the ARBs list. As a result of the two month joint revalidation of DAR Provincial Office and KATARUNGAN Farmers, a total of 1,228 CLOAs with 782 beneficiaries, covering 2,137.562 hectares will be distributed on November 6, 2016 in Barugo, Leyte.

Before ending this piece, let me just share with you the observation of Jean Rollo, one of the KATARUNGAN farmer leaders who conducted the joint re-validation activities with DAR: that DAR seriously bungled the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Program from the identification/documentation of the farmer beneficiaries to the distribution of the generated CLOAs. Thus, she resolved to continue with the re-validation activities until all CLOAs have been released, which she sees will take about three years, owing to the complexity of the issues they encountered along the way.

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