Graft charges filed vs DAR chief, exec over Lapanday occupation

MANILA, Philippines – A criminal and administrative complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and an undersecretary at his department for facilitating the occupation of farmers of the Davao del Norte farm of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

Mariano and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Pañgulayan were accused of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, LFC said in a statement on Friday, May 19.

In his complaint filed on Thursday, May 18, lawyer Noel Oliver Punzalan alleged that the "respondents clearly used their office and abused their authority to deliberately favor the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Incorporated (Marbai)."

Mariano on Thursday executed his installation order favoring 159 Marbai farmers who were displaced from their land in 2011. This was after President Rodrigo Duterte gave him the go signal during the Chief Executive's meeting with the farmers who were camped out in Mendiola in early May.

Mariano had  tried to install the farmers twice – on April 18 and April 21 – but failed reportedly because LFC's armed guards barricaded the San Isidro Farm area.

LFC has maintained that the Davao City Regional Trial Court's (RTC) earlier ruling affirmed its authority to control the 145-hectare farm under its contract with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (Hearbco-1).

Marbai farmers used to belong to Hearbco-1 but broke away after they refused to sign another contract with LFC.

Punzalan said in his complaint that the DAR officials "did not even consider that the Marbai members are not the only agrarian reform beneficiaries in the land awarded to the Hearbco-1 whose majority members honor and respect the counter-approved compromise agreement with LFC."

The complaint seeks the preventive suspension of  the DAR executives, to prevent prejudicing the case filed against them.

LFC is a banana and pineapple exporter partly owned by former agriculture secretary Cito Lorenzo. In December 2016, DAR issued a cease and desist order against LFC after receiving reports that its security forces were harassing Marbai members staying in their farm.

Marbai farmers claim ownership of the 0.79-hectare portion of the land based on their Certificate of Land Ownership and Award given to them in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. – Rappler.com


Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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