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Thursday, July 25, 2024

DAR asked to recall order stripping farmers of agrarian lands

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More than 1,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from Nasugbu, Batangas asked the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke its order to give up the lands previously awarded to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and returning the assets to the former owner, Hacienda Roxas. 

“Since time immemorial, these farmers have been cultivating their land. It goes against the basic precepts of justice, fairness, and equity to deprive them, through no fault of their own, of the land they till,” the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) said in its petition.

The petition, filed by Sentra lawyer Robert Pahilga on behalf of the farmers, said the DAR’s consolidated order and the compromise agreement violated Republic Act 6657 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, as amended by Republic Act 9700 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER).

“These laws mandate the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands to the landless tillers. CARL is a social justice legislation and as such, whether agricultural land is covered in its provision, is not subject to compromise,” the petition read.

The farmers alleged that the Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Hacienda Roxas Inc. (KAMAHARI) and the Damayan ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Roxas-National Federation of Sugar Workers (DAMBA-NFSW), which allegedly negotiated the compromise agreement, had no authority to decide for and on their behalf.

“The compromise agreement, even when it was approved by the DAR, is null and void. It is not valid and binding to the ARBs [agrarian reform beneficiaries],” the petition stated.

The DAR issued a consolidated order on Dec. 29, 2023, splitting 50-50 the 2,938 hectares of land registered under Roxas and Company Inc (RCI).

These parcels of land in Nasugbu, Batangas were placed under CARP.  RCI filed a protest and applied for their conversion into other uses. KAMAHARI and DAMBA-NFSW agreed to withdraw all of them and accepted the compromise agreement that RCI proposed, according to the petition.

“The agreement paved the way for the issuance of the said consolidated order which allowed RCI to illegally retain the 1,322.22855 hectares of land already covered by CARO and distributed to the ARBs,” it said.

“The ARBs are hereby ordered to vacate the areas outside the ½ portion awarded to them and are enjoined to peacefully turn over physical possession of the same to RCI, the latter is also ordered to vacate the ½ portion given to ARBs, failing which or failure by either of them showing resistance or refusal despite the foregoing disposition, the PARPO II is authorized to enlist the assistance of police or any law enforcer including the military to maintain peace and enforce this order,” the DAR’s consolidated order stipulated.

The farmers said the DAR failed to consider the impact of its consolidated order on the people of the nine barangays of the hacienda and the community.

“Had it conducted validation and verification and did not rely on the RCI’s, KAMAHARI or DAMBA-NFSW’s representations, it would have discovered the adverse effects of its order to the people and the community,” the petition read.

“Thus, it imperative for the DAR to revoke the compromise agreement, recall and revoke the consolidated order, and proceed with the acquisition proceedings of the lands under CARP,” it said.

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