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Leyte Senior Citizens in the Struggle for Land Rights


Older people and gender are two of the cross cutting themes of the Sphere Standards. The project implemented by RIGHTS, in partnership with ICCO and Kerk-in-Actie ensured that the vulnerable groups are included and their issues addressed. We tell the inspiring stories of two women, who, at their advanced age continued to learn and are actively campaigning in claiming their land rights.

“Ganito lang pala, ang tagal ko nang naghihintay na may magturo sa akin ng ganito,” (So, natural farming is this easy. I’ve waited a long time for somebody to teach me this) quips Emelita Landrito of Barangay Patong, San Miguel, Leyte. Nanay Emelita is one of the 50 farmers who completed their Farm Field School in November this year. She says she knows backyard farming, but she also knows that the methods she was using could still be improved. At 68, she is still very active in the farm field school while doing her functions as a barangay Kagawad. She prods her co-members in attending the weekly session of the school, saying that learning is effective by doing. She says she feels confident that she can produce sufficient volume of vegetables that she can sell in order to augment her income.

More so, she is thankful that apart from the technology she has learned, she also learned about CLOAs (Certification of Land Ownership Award), and why it is important to have them in their possession. “Nung una akala ko wala lang, yun pala yun na ang titulo,” (At first I thought, there is no need for the CLOA. I never knew it was the land title) she says. The lead implementing agency for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has not provided enough information to the farmers when they were interviewed for the identification of the beneficiaries. Nanay Emelita says she only heard about it after Yolanda, when RIGHTS came to their barangay. Now she wishes that the CLOA be released to them in time for Christmas. “Bago man lang ako mawala, mahawakan ko sana ang CLOA patunay na amin ang lupang sinasaka namin,” (Before I go, I wish I could hold the CLOA to prove that the land I till is owned by our family) Nanay Emelita said in closing.


Francisca Edusma, “Kapitana Iska” as she is fondly called, is another beneficiary of the program. At first, she gave up her slot to other members of her farmer group in attending the Farm Field School (FFS).  When one of the previous enrolees dropped out, she stepped in.  “Gulay ang gusto kong itanim, hindi ko na kaya ang mga bala-balanghoy,” (I want to plant vegetables as I can no longer continue farming root crops).  She says she allots time in her busy schedule as Barangay Captain of Brgy. Canfabi, Carigara, Leyte to attend the weekly sessions of the Farm Field School (FFS) where she says she learn new things each week.  What keeps her going other than the prospect of augmenting her income by selling the vegetables she would produce, is the opportunity to help other farmers, much like herself, who fell and continuously fall prey to opportunistic former land owners, adverse claimants and DAR employees.

Kapitana Iska came home after spending 15 years as a domestic help in the United Kingdom and Hongkong to help her father tend the land they own. Her father was awarded the Emancipation Patent (EP) in the late 70’s. The said document (EP) was “borrowed” with a gun pointed to her father by a claimant to their land. “Wala kasi ako dito nun. Yung aking Tatay at saka yung kapatid kong Dominica yun ang tinututukan naman na kailangan ibigay nyo yan kung hindi papatayin ko kayo,” (I was not here then. They pointed a gun to my father and sister Dominica and was told to hand over the EP title or they would be killed) she relates. When she came home, not aware of her rights as land awardee, she decided to buy back the EP for Php300,000.00 which the claimant accepted.

Hers is not an isolated case. Kapitana Iska would go on telling stories of similar “borrowing the title with a handgun pointed at the farmer” incident. She says that after these titles were taken from the farmers, the claimants would then sell it to interested buyers. Such is the case of another farmer in Brgy. Canfabi who is being assisted by Kapitana Iska. The farmer, Rosalinda Eria is the wife of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiary who was awarded his CLOA in 1992. The title was also taken from Eria by the same claimant from whom Kapitana Iska bought her father’s EP for three hundred thousand pesos. The land, measuring 2,875 has. was sold to another gun-wielding buyer (a jail guard in the municipality) in 2005. The case had been referred to DAR in 2005, until now they are awaiting the resolution of the case.

Kapitana Iska tells us that this is a special case as Eria had been selected by the International Red Cross to be one of the beneficiaries of a temporary shelter assistance. Construction was already started in November, but was stopped becausehe gun-wielding buyer filed a complaint with the Red Cross. Kapitana Iska says that unless the complaint goes away, Eria will lose her temporary shelter. On the day the construction started, Eria fenced her land with the help of Kapitana Iska and members of the Carigara municipal federation.



Kapitana Iska says she will assist Eria to the very end saying that she wants to see justice served to farmers like herself.  (Update:  The International Red Cross has completed construction of the shelter provided for Rosalinda Eria and family in December 2015.  She is now also cultivating the entire area in their CLOA).


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