Unjust criminal charges of Theft and Qualified Theft cases against thirty-seven (37) farmers, among 500 or so would-be beneficiaries at the 1,716-hectare Hacienda Matias who are all members of the Kilusang Mambubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP), had been referred and warrants stayed. Yet, anti-reform actors represented by the farm overseers and loyalists of the former landowners as well as those who do not believe in the agrarian reform program continue to hostage the implementation of agrarian reform law. The filing of criminal charges and the recent harassment are, to a significant extent, being reinforced by the fact that qualified beneficiaries have yet to be awarded their land titles sans any legal impediment, in a tedious and arduous struggle that lasted for over a decade.
A memorandum by a former Undersecretary of the DAR issued on 3 May 2017 should have fast tracked the land redistribution process as it asserted that “having no clear legal impediment for the continuation of the LAD (land acquisition and distribution) process involving the subject landholdings, DAR should now proceed with the generation, registration and distribution of CLOAs and the installation of qualified ARBs.”
Despite such memorandum, the CLOAs have yet to be issues and this has caused the continuing vulnerability of farmers against physical and verbal threats and malicious prosecution. This situation cannot continue, and farmers ask DAR Secretary Paeng Mariano: What is holding back the distribution of our land titles?
As early as 2014, however, the ownership of remaining unreformed Matias lands had been transferred to the government in continuance of the coverage of the land under the existing agrarian reform program. The government in fact, already deposited cash payments for the just compensation of the land owners. As a consequence, the titles of landowner Matias had been cancelled and transferred in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The aforementioned cases against farmers were filed in August 2016; more than a year after the properties had been transferred in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The filing of theft and qualified theft cases was triggered by the decision of the farmers to harvest the coconuts from the lands they are tilling, fully believing that the government and not the Matias family, owns the land. Up to the time when they decided to harvest the coconuts for their full benefit, the farmers were still under the share tenancy scheme where the Matias family gets 2/3 of the produce. Since 1988, however, share tenancy scheme in all its form had been declared to be contrary to law.
Led usually by hacienda farm overseers, the past years had been met with strong resistance against agrarian reform: hired goons had forced former tenants to file a counter-petition for exclusion from CARP, at times physically harassing CARP/ER petitioners or verbally threatening members of KMBP. Even DAR local level officials were not immune from harassment suits such as child abuse among many others, when landowner loyalists who were against agrarian reform would set up barricades to block the installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The most recent one, as mentioned, was through filing of criminal cases, but this was referred to the Department of Agrarian Reform by the Prosecutor as per the Referral System Policy under CARPER. Ironically, the ones who had blocked the reform processes that started more than a decade ago and who had vehemently refused to participate in the law implementation are the ones who are complaining of exclusion from the same law that they had so intensely and vigorously resisted. These loyal followers of the landowner vehemently resisted and refused to benefit from the law in the past to the extent that their actions merited cases of willful obstruction of the orderly implementation of the agrarian reform program.
Despite our expectations that the agrarian reform will be more effectively and strongly implemented under current Secretary Ka Paeng Mariano because of his longtime involvement in peasant struggle and who is himself a peasant, it appears that the DAR has not only been reluctant in the implementation of CARP in Hacienda Matias; it is also apparently failing to assert the power of the government over the land it now legally owns.
We in the Kilusan para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (KATARUNGAN) call on the DAR Secretary Paeng Mariano to be true to his commitment to the struggle of peasants by immediately awarding the CLOAs to Hacienda Matias farmers who were selected by following the rigorous and cumbersome steps and procedures required of them by law amidst resistance from landowners men. KATARUNGAN challenges Ka Paeng to put a stop to the harassment and injustice, and fulfill its constitutional mandate to uphold the rights and welfare of the landless tillers.