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MANILA, Philippines – One “vintage case” down, thousands more to go.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Conrado Estrella III announced on Tuesday, May 30, the long-delayed resolution in the land ownership of Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac.
“Our formula of multiple shuttle diplomacy and constantly holding dialogues with the stakeholders [worked and] finally, we were able to resolve this case and we were able to release a decision on Hacienda Tinang,” Estrella said in a Malacañang press briefing.
Over 450 titles will be released to 450 families, since no appeals and protests were filed following the DAR’s release of its decision on the case, noted Estrella.
The DAR is set to release a writ of execution, with the distribution of titles scheduled “in a matter of two weeks,” said Estrella
The struggles of Hacienda Tinang’s farmers date back to even before the first Marcos president.
Sugar lands, including the Dominican Province of Hacienda Tinang, were exempt from a land reform code of the late president Diosdado Macapagal and a decree by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos because the Philippines then did not want to miss its US sugar quotas.
Sugar lands were finally placed under reform in 1988, during the presidency of the late Cory Aquino, prompting the Dominican order to offer 200 hectares or 2 million square meters of the hacienda to its agricultural workers.
It has been over three decades of struggle since 1988, until the DAR in the waning weeks of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s term, affirmed that the 200 hectares of land belonged to 178 farmer-beneficiaries, including 94 members of the Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang), whose members and supporters had been arrested in a June 2022 cultivation activity.
The case of Hacienda Tinang was especially complicated, said Estrella, since it had evolved into a fight between two farmer groups: MAKISAMA-Tinang and Tinang Samahang Nayon Multipurpose Cooperative Inc. (Tinang SN MPCI), which is controlled by the family of Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva.
Villanueva had insisted that beneficiaries of the land should be more than 400, to include members of Tinang SN MPCI.
Estrella would go on to thank Villanueva, his former colleague in Congress, as well as former DAR chief and Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano and Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas.
Estrella is the second of his name to head the DAR, the same way the current president is the second of his name to sit in Malacañang. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the only son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, while the current DAR chief’s grandfather was the late dictator’s agrarian reform chief.
Estrella said Marcos ordered him to “address all agrarian reform” cases because “justice delayed is justice denied.” He inherited over 2,300 cases under the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board and 2,400 cases under the Agrarian Law Implementation under his office.
Estrella said that over 1,200 of these “vintage” cases – many between 5 and 20 years old – have been solved.
The DAR chief said a serious lack of lawyers in the department was also why cases take so long to resolve. Estrella said that the DAR, with the permission of the Department of Budget and Management, has since restructured its personnel scheme to allocate slots for some 60 lawyers, who will receive compensations of over P82,000 a month. – Rappler.com