By RONALYN V. OLEA
About 200 farmers in Sitio Malapad, Bgy. Sibul, San Miguel and in barrios Durumugan and Kalawakan ng Bayan in Doña Trinidad Remedios, Bulacan are now threatened of displacement from the 375-hectare of land they have been tilling since 1963. Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte has claimed that he owns the land.
In 1973, by virtue of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27, farmers were awarded certificates of land transfer (CLT) and emancipation patents (EP) for the 27-hectare of rice land. Then, in 1988, some 348 hectares were covered by President Corazon Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), making the farmers holders of certificates of land ownership awards (CLOA). Each farmer cultivates two to three hectares of land.
In 2000, however, farmers said that the Land Bank of the Philippines ceased from accepting payments from CLOA holders. They were told that the land is under dispute.
On March 2 of this year, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region III issued an exemption order, canceling all land titles distributed to farmer beneficiaries. The DAR said the farmers “failed to develop the awarded lands for agricultural production.”
DAR Colluding With Villafuerte
“The regional office of DAR made this sweeping cancellation of land titles to allow Rep. Villafuerte to declare the 375-hectare land as his private property. This is very, very unfair, this is injustice to the highest order to all farmer beneficiaries,” the KMP said.
The group, which recently led a fact-finding mission to the area, said that there is no truth to DAR’s allegations that farmer-beneficiaries have not developed the land. In its report, the KMP said the whole area is a combination of plains, rolling hills, plateau, with numerous lagoons, ponds and rivers used for irrigating rice fields. There are two cropping seasons and each hectare could produce 80 to 100 cavans of palay. Farmers also cultivate vegetables for added income.
Furthermore, the Sentro Para Sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform), a non-government organization providing free legal services to farmers, has questioned the legality of the exemption order issued by DAR-Region III. Sentra said that only the DAR Central Office has the authority to exempt from CARP lands larger than 50 hectares.
Sentra further said the DAR regional office could be held legally liable for absence of any consultation with the affected farmers. The first dialogue was held only on April 7 this year, after the order had been issued.
The land tilled by the farmers for five decades is now being claimed by the Villafuertes. (Photo courtesy of KMP)
During the said dialogue, Villafuerte told the farmers that he owns the land and that he plans to “donate” the half of the lands to Green Earth Heritage Foundation led by Mylene Villafuerte-Matti, M.D., daughter of Villafuerte. The other portions, he said, will be planted to bamboo, mango and malunggay.
“We saw their website [Green Earth Heritage Foundation] and read they claim to be Christians and believers of the dignity of human beings, but they are the ones who are grabbing lands and displacing farmers,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesperson, said in a press conference.
On the April 7 meeting, Villafuerte was accompanied by his private guards, elements of the Scout Rangers and of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Raymundo Gabriel, 52 , a farmer who attended the meeting, recalled Villafuerte as saying: “It’s up to you, if you want a fight, you could chose either heaven or land.”
Another farmer, Magdalena Libunan, 58, also quoted Villafuerte: ““If you want violence, I can give you violence, if you want disorder, I can give you disorder.”
On August 22, surveyors of Villafuerte arrived in the area. Again, Villafuerte’s group was accompanied by some 40 members of the Scout Rangers in full-battle gear.
Anita Galuno, 47, related that on September 1, two unidentified men, one wearing a jacket imprinted with “US” arrived at her home. They asked Galuno if she knows a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and they intend to join the revolutionary group. Galuno ignored them.