The Agrarian Reform Community in San Benito was supposed to be a showcase of PD 72, the agrarian reform program of the Marcos regime, and of CARP. But its story reveals why peasants remain landless.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Vol. VII, No. 32, September 16-22, 2007
VICTORIA, Laguna (90 km south of Manila) – The palay (rice grains) which are ready for harvest appears like specs of gold from afar as farmers tend their farm under the heat of the morning sun. The farm in Barangay (village) San Benito in the town of Victoria, province of Laguna, boasts of a good yield of palay during harvest time yielding an average of 115 cavans per hectare. Irrigation is in place which assures two cropping seasons per year.
San Benito was named an Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) in 1994, the only village that is declared as such in the province of Laguna. ARCs serve as showcase farm villages of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of 1987. Previous to this, San Benito was named one of the areas covered by Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27), the agrarian reform program of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos which started simultaneously with the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972.
During the Marcos administration, farmer-beneficiaries of the program were given Emancipation Patents (EP). Under CARP, farmer-beneficiaries were awarded Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) after they have paid their dues at the Land Bank of the Philippines.
However, CARP beneficiaries in San Benito fear they are bound to lose their farm lots as a certain Rudencio Vergara is claiming more than 100 hectares of the total 285 hectares of farmlands in this village.
“Bata pa ako linilinang na namin ng tatay ko ang lupang ito” (I was still a child when my father and I started tilling this land.) farmer beneficiary Apolinario Bautista, 57, told Bulatlat in an interview. “Panatag na sana ang loob ko tapos ganito ang mangyayari” (I was already happy with the fact that the land was awarded to us and now this would happen.) he added.
Bautista said his forefathers have told him about the beginnings of San Benito. The story of San Benito is typical of most farm lands where landlords claim the land when it was made productive by farmers. In San Benito, Bautista said, it was a certain Juan de Ramos who claimed this village to be his own. Since then, Bautista said his forefathers and other farmers in the village became tenants or kasama of de Ramos.
The de Ramos patriarch divided the land to his three heirs – Toyang, Diding and Maria. After so0me time, two-thirds of the San Benito land was sold to a certain Cayco. During the 1950s, Bautista said, another landlord by the name of Chipeco leased the land from the Cayco family.
However, PD 27 cancelled Cayco’s land title and gave the farmers their Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT). After paying their amortization, the farmer-beneficiaries were awarded EPs which served as their land title.
It was in 1994 when San Benito was named as an ARC under CARP.
The return of the de Ramos heir
In November 2005, Rudencio Vergara III, a de Ramos heir, applied for a free-patent at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). After several days, 18 families, including that of farmer-beneficiary Jovito Mesina, received notification from the DENR about Vergara’s free-patent application. The DENR notified the farmer-beneficiaries that they could file an appeal within 15 days of notice but should pay a petition fee of P100 ($2.15 at an exchange rate of $1=P46.30) each.
It was Mesina who filed the petition at the DENR Los Baños office as early as Dec. 3, 2005 but the first hearing for the petiton happened only on Feb. 28, 2006.
On March 7 of the same year, the DENR, together with Vergara, did an ocular visit of San Benito. Afterwhich, DENR Special Investigator Rodolfo Gonzales issued a notice to the farmer-beneficiaries to submit pertinent papers such as CLTs, EPs, ARC plan and list of farmer-beneficiaries, to serve as supporting papers for their petition. Mesina said they submitted the said documents on March 22, 2006.
When Bulatlat visited San Benito Sept. 6, Bautista and Mesina, together with other farmer-beneficiaries, were getting ready for the coming harvest season. But instead of happily anticipating a bountiful harvest, the farmers are restless at the prospect of losing their land once again.
Bogus land reform
”The situation in San Benito shows the bogus character of the government’s land reform program,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) chair and former Anakapawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano said.
Cancellation of EPs, CLTs and Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) are rampant. In Laguna alone, this affected about 20,000 hectares of agricultural land previously covered by the CARP.
IBON Foundation reported in mid-2004 that more than 2,000 EPs and CLOAs, covering 380,000 hectares of land, have been cancelled.
DAR’s own records show that from 1979 to 2003, there were 2,885 approved applications for land-use conversion involving 40, 485.9124 hectares of agricultural lands. The National Statistics office, meanwhile, reported in 2002 that 827,892 hectares of agricultural land have been converted to other uses.
In Laguna, 172,967.30 hectares of agricultural land have been converted to other uses. Agricultural lands in the province is still monopolized by a few landlords. Only 835 landlords own 496,496 hectares of agricultural land.
The CARP is set to end in 2008 and DAR officials are campaigning for another five-year extension period to fully implement the program. Mariano however said the desired extension is useless because of the token and limited scope of the program. He added that the class character of the program remains anti-peasant and rabidly pro-landlord.
Mariano said Congress should legislate a genuine agrarian reform law that would provide thoroughgoing social justice measures to correct and rectify the social inju1stice being committed against poor peasants and farm workers.
Porgressive partylist representatives led by Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo has introduced House Resolution No. 80 which seeks to enact a genuine land reform program.
”After almost 20 years of implementation, the CARP has been proven to be ineffective in addressing the Filipino peasantry’s centuries-old problem of landlessness. Instead, CARP served as an apparatus to strengthen big landlords, local and foreign agro-corporations’ monopoly and control of our country’s agricultural lands,” the House resolution stated. (Bulatlat.com)