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Amid Lapanday 'defiance,' DAR insists farmers must get share

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano ordered the "peaceful installation" of farmers at a Davao del Norte plantation that was earlier the subject of a cease and desist order (CDO).

In a memorandum dated April 11, Mariano directed Davao Regional Director Joseph Orilla and Davao del Norte Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Jocelyn Sena to conduct a pre-installation conference for the members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Incorporated (MARBAI) in San Isidro Farm.

In agrarian reform terms, installation means the farmers should physically take over the lands which were awarded to them.

All 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries who are part of MARBAI own a 0.79-hectare portion of the 145-hectare plantation. They received their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) back in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

In 2011, however, the farmers were evicted by Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC), the owner of the rest of San Isidro Farm. Some of them resorted to other means of livelihood, such as selling delicacies.

The farmers then tried to reclaim the land in 2016. MARBAI president Mely Yu reported then that they were being harassed by LFC.

Amid the harassment allegations, Mariano issued the CDO against LFC in December 2016.

"If not restraint, such defiance will surely impede and frustrate the mandate of the DAR to protect the rights and welfare of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to own directly or collectively the lands they till or to receive their just share in the case of farmworkers," the DAR chief said in his April 11 memorandum.

"In cases where the taking of possession of the awarded lands by the ARBs would endanger or imperil their lives, as in the present situation, the DAR shall assume the responsibility for their installation to the awarded property by way of a writ of installation, pursuant to Section 109 of Administrative Order (AO) 07-11," he added.

LFC exports bananas and pineapples from Davao del Norte. It is partly owned by former agriculture secretary Cito Lorenzo, who was linked to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. The charges against Lorenzo and other officials were junked due to lack of evidence– Rappler.com