MABALACAT CITY, Philippines – They’ve been promised installation several times and have been disappointed as many times.
Will the promise of Agrarian Reform secretary Conrado Estrella III on Tuesday, February 7 to install more than 200 agrarian reform beneficiaries of Hacienda Tinang within 45 days finally cap the more than three-decade struggle of farmers for their own slice of land in Concepcion, Tarlac?
Estrella made the vow during a dialogue on Tuesday afternoon with 30 Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang) members at the DAR central office in Quezon City..
DAR legal affairs undersecretary Napoleon Galit also joined the meeting.
The dialogue followed a morning protest by MAKISAMA-Tinang and other peasant advocates from Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
“Kagalakan ang aming nararamdaman. Sa tagal-tagal ng panahon, dinesisyunan na ni Secretary Estrella na within 45 days dapat maresolbahan na yang installation. Ibibigay na within 45 days yung hinahangad na matagal na ng mga ARBs,” said Abby Bucad, daughter of deceased ARB.
(We are full of joy. After so long, Secretary Estrella has finally decided to complete the installation within 45 days. They will grant within 45 days what the ARBs have long awaited.)
Bucad said they expect the 45 days to end on March 24.
MAKISAMA-Tinang will start a countdown until all 236 beneficiaries are individually installed, Bucad added.
MAKISAMA-Tinang members also welcomed Estrella’s promise to issue a cease and desist order against the Tinang Samahang Nayon Multipurpose Cooperative Inc. which has managed the disputed land for decades.
The cooperative is controlled by the family of Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva, a former Tarlac representative.
The Hacienda Tinang farmers’ struggle peaked in June 2022 with a land tilling activity that led to the arrest of more than 90 Makisama members and supporters on a complaint by the Villanueva cooperative.
A court threw out the charges of illegal assembly and malicious mischief, noting that the farmers were in fact owners of the land by virtue of their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA).”
The DAR likewise reaffirmed, also in June 2022, that the ARBs are the rightful owners of the disputed 200-hectare land.
Bucad explained the need for a cease and desist order, noting that the cooperative had already harvested 90% of the crop.
“Syempre after noon, magtatanim ulit sila, hindi ba? So ang sabi namin, anong aasahan namin, matatapos na naman ang harvesting, alangan naman mag-antay na naman kami ng buwan kapag tinamnan na naman nila,” she pointed out. “So ayun ang cease and desist to stop cultivating the land.”
(After that, they’ll want to plant again, right? So we pointed out we can’t wait more months, which will happen if they are allowed to plant again. That’s why we need a cease and desist order against the coop cultivating the land.)
“Magaantay nalang talaga kami within 45 days,” she added. (We’ll just wait out these 45 days)
Before the court threw out the charges against the ARBs, the Villanueva group had tried to offer a “win-win” solution.
That proposed deal would have halved MAKISAMA’s 758,000-sqm share and slashed each MAKISAMA member’s rightful individual 8,000-sqm share to only 3,829 sqm – while increasing the coop’s 1.24-million sqm share to 1.64 million sqm.
Without seeing the dawn
Mayor Villanueva had told Rappler the coop has its own CLOA. However, they have failed to present this to the DAR or to the media. The mayor also admitted they had never registered the supposed CLOA.
The legal situation has for a long time been favorable for the ARBs, but the Villanuevas are a powerful clan occupying various levels of local positions.
The farmers’ fight to claim the promised land took so long that their fiery leader, Felino Cunanan died in November 2022 railing about their delayed installation and persistent hounding by state security forces.
Of the 236 original ARBs, 30 had already died of old age and sickness in the course of their plight and distributed their land to them.
In a statement sent by UMA, acting president Ariel Casilao said they will hold DAR to their word as they welcome the development in the decades-long struggle of the Tinang farmers.
“We will hold DAR to their word that the remaining ARBs of Tinang will finally be installed. This is a welcome, albeit overdue, development in the decades-long struggle of Tinang farmers for land long promised to them by the government,” Casilao said. – Rappler.com
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