The order also cited the reinvestigation team’s report that 225.4681 hectares of the hacienda are “actually, directly, and exclusively used for cattle farming based on tax declarations.” The tax declarations were issued by the same local government unit.
Engineer Falcon Villanueva, range management officer of the Masbate City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) said in an interview that land owners applying for CARP exemption through a claim that the land is being used for livestock production are required to secure a certification to that effect from the local government unit.
The mayor of San Jacinto at that time was a nephew of the landowner and a third generation heir of the Espinosas. Ticao Island is the hometown of the influential clan.
The DAR reinvestigation team also reported to have found 138 heads of cattle in the hacienda, hence, it recommended the exclusion of 138 hectares of the property from CARP coverage based on the one-cattle-is-to-one-hectare rule of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
On May 18, 2006, DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman granted the exclusion of 138 hectares of the estate and allowed 187.2916 hectares to remain under CARP coverage.
However, current San Jacinto MARO Carlos Ibay said in an interview with this reporter that the DAR reinvestigation team’s findings are “unbelievable.”
“Kasi, yung mga baka na nakita nila ay galing lahat sa Milagros. Dinala lang nila dito para patunayan na bakahan nga ang property nila. That’s a fact. Alam yan ng lahat ng tao dito sa San Jacinto,” (The cows that they [the inspection team] saw all came from Milagros [town.] They were brought here only to prove that the property is a pasture land. That’s a fact. All the people of San Jacinto know that) he said.
The Espinosas own a 3,000-hectare ranch in Milagros town located at the western coast of Masbate island. Masbate was once regarded as one of the top cattle producing provinces in the country but it is also the second poorest among the country’s 77 provinces.
As the case now stands at the DAR central office, Deinla and other farmer-beneficiaries in the Hacienda Espinosa are waiting in vain for land distribution. The local DAR statistics show that almost half of about 26,593 CARP beneficiaries in Masbate are in the same predicament as Deinla.
In the article “Subverting Peasants Land Rights: The Supreme Court Decision Exempting Livestock Areas from the Coverage of Agrarian Reform” by Danilo Carranza of the Peace Foundation, Inc. and Pepito Mato of Masbate Center for Rural Development Empowerment (MACARADE), the Supreme Court is blamed for “constricting” the scope of CARP coverage by exempting productive agricultural land classified as being used for livestock, swine and poultry production.
The DAR tried to cushion the Supreme Court decision by issuing Administrative Order No. 9 Series of 1993 regulating exemptions of lands devoted to livestock-raising, providing a land-animal ratio of one-head-to-one-hectare as basis for the exemption in lieu of blanket exemption.
However, on Oct 19, 2005, the high court declared the DAR AO No. 9 as unconstitutional when it ruled with finality the exemption of some 3,020 hectares of property owned by Delia Sutton, a lawyer and rancher. The land is located in barangays Amutag, San Agustin, Dayhagan and Cabasan, in the municipality of Aroroy, also in Masbate province.
Sitting en banc, 13 justices concurred in the decision penned by now chief justice Reynato Puno. Sutton won the case despite DAR’s assertion that portions of the said property are dedicated to farming. Some 205 farmers lost the chance to own land through CARP. They claim that a 50-50 sharing system in rice exists in the Sutton land holdings.
Aside from the Sutton case, 11 other similar exclusion cases have been documented by MACARADE in six towns in Masbate province covering 12,026 hectares and affecting some 2,014 farmers. The cases are pending at the Supreme Court or at the DAR regional or central offices. See table
Exemption Cases Assisted by MACARADE
The figures indicate the extent the Supreme Court ruling have been depriving farmers in Masbate of CARP coverage.
Of the total 404,707 hectares land area of Masbate, 274,750 hectares are classified as agricultural. Of these, only 141,154 hectares are within the scope of CARP.
As of February 2007, the Masbate Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) reported that only 58,527 (or 41 percent of the total area covered by CARP) hectares have been reported as “accomplished.” The rest of the 82,627 hectares (or 59 percent) is described as CARP “balance” or unaccomplished, including 5,747 hectares identified as “problematic.”