THE Department of Agrarian Reform ordered on Thursday the distribution of a 358.22-hectare agricultural estate in Tarlac City owned by the Tarlac Development Corp.-Hacienda Luisita Inc. belonging to the family of former President Benigno Aquino III.
“Only a temporary restraining order of the Supreme Court can tie the hands of DAR,” said Secretary Rafael Mariano. “Even before June 15, 1988, during which the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the [Tadeco] property is an agricultural land up to [the department’s] June 2015 [assessment].”
Mariano issued DARCO Resolution MS1608-238 to give way for the distribution of eight parcels of land, which were covered by notice of coverage in December 2013.
“In effect, the protest and supplemental protest filed by Tadeco for lack of merit are denied and the said property is covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” the order read.
Mariano maintained the validity of the publication of notices of coverage of the eight parcels of land put into question by Tadeco.
He instructed the DAR provincial office of Tarlac in Region 3 to proceed with and complete the land acquisition and distribution process over the subject properties pursuant to Section 30 of Republic Act 9700.
Also, he denied all ancillary motions filed by Tadeco for lack of merit.
“It is still an agricultural land even as I speak today. Tadeco does not have the basis of its claim over the property,” Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Operation Luis Meinrado Pangulayan said.
Undersecretary for Field Operations Office Mario Risonar Jr. said it will take 45 days to start with the preliminary survey of the eight parcels of land covered by Mariano’s order, and another 45 days to conduct an actual survey.
“The screening and identification of farmer-beneficiaries will take about 50 days. We need 195 days all in all to be able to generate and distribute the certications of land ownership award,” he added.
According to Mariano, Tadeco may file a motion for reconsideration with the Office of the President.
“If the Office of the President junks Tadeco’s appeal, Tadeco can file with the Court of Appeals or elevate its motion to the Supreme Court,” he said.
Tadeco, then owned and controlled by the Jose Cojuangco Sr. Group, bought the sugar estate known as the Hacienda Luisita from its Spanish owner Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera).
On Aug. 23, 1988, Tadeco organized the Hacienda Luisita Inc. as a spin-off corporation, and then assigned and conveyed its 4,915.75-hectare property to HLI.
In the present protest, aside from those properties conveyed to HLI, Tadeco is also the registered owner of the properties which were the subject of notices of coverage caused by DAR to be published in a newspaper on Dec. 17, 2013.
The Alyansa Ng Manggagawang Bukid Ng Asyenda Luisita Inc., an organization farmworkers in the sugar estate known as Hacienda Luisita, located in Central Luzon filed a petition seeking for the coverage of the subject properties under the agrarian reform program.
Mariano clarified the 358.22 hectares is outside the 4,915 hectares HLI property subjected to CARP by the Supreme Court.
“The contested land is fenced with barbed wires, and is heavily secured with guards armed with guns,” Pangulayan told reporters.
“Only a restraining order from the Supreme Court can stop us from the process,” Mariano said.
The DAR chief vowed to end Ambala’s petition for revocation of land conversion issued by DAR in 1996 over another parcels of land at the Hacienda Luisita, and resolve some landlordism cases in Negros Occidental “in the coming days.”
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