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MABALACAT CITY, Philippines — Less than two weeks after Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella III promised to install some 200 agrarian reform beneficiaries of Hacienda Tinang within 45 days, their three-decade wait for the promised land suffered a new setback.
Members of the Malayang Kilusang Samahang Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang) protested anew at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) central office in Quezon City on Monday, February 20 after receiving notice of a revalidation process – the third since 1996.
Their last protest, on February 7, led to Estrella’s promise of installation.
A statement by MAKISAMA-Tinang said the Concepcion, Tarlac municipal agrarian reform office (MARO), through its officer Noel Calma informed them of the order on February 18.
The DAR order comes eight months after the agency reaffirmed the farmers as rightful owners of the disputed 200-hectare land on June 20, 2022.
Forty MAKISAMA-Tinang agrarian reform beneficiaries waited for six hours to dialogue with DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Napoleon Galit over what they claimed were questionable moves by the MARO.
The farmers said that prior to Calma’s letter, the MARO mounted on February 17 a tarpaulin at the farmers’ hut and the barangay covered court, with a list of 237 “potential beneficiaries” and a directive to participate in a validation activity on February 20, 21, and 27.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) questioned the intention of the MARO , saying it had unilaterally downgraded their official status as the agrarian reform beneficiaries, rightful owners, by referring to them as “claimants.”
Usec. Galit, however, clarified that the 45-day countdown should have begun on the day Task Force Tinang was reconvened to resolve the issue on February 15, and not the day the guarantee was made, Feb. 7.
He also explained that the validation process may have been an “operational” directive from Regional Director James Arsenio Ponce of DAR’s Region 3 office.
Galit claimed that what was guaranteed within those 45 days was not installation but the task force’s final recommendation – that may or may not favor MAKISAMA-Tinang, and may or may not be taken up by Estrella.
“Pati pala verbal agreement, may fine print,” observed John Milton ‘Ka Butch’ Lozande, spokesperson for Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), who was present at both dialogues. “Masakit ito para sa mga magsasaka ng Tinang. Umasa silang tutupdin ng DAR ang salita nito sa kanila, pero iba pala ang ibig sabihin ng DAR sa sinabi nito sa kanila.”
(It turns out even verbal agreements have fine print. This is painful for the farmers of Tinang. They had counted on DAR to fulfill its commitment, but now DAR gives it a different meaning.)
Rosario Villanueva Barrera, 40, daughter of an agrarian reform beneficiary, said they will hold Estrella III to his promise of installation within 45 days.
“Para sa akin, hindi na kailangan ng panibagong validation kasi babalik nanaman sa step one kasi tapos na ang validation, tapos na rin ang revalidation. Kilala na sila, hindi na sila aplikante para i-invalidate pa na CLOA holder na sila,” explained the daughter of Rodolfo Villanueva, a beneficiary who died of kidney failure in 2000.
(To me, no new validation is needed. It will bring us back to step one. There has already been a completed validation, and a revalidation. They know who the real beneficiaries are; they have CLOAs; they are not applicants to be threatened with invalidation.)
The first validation was in 1996 when the farmer beneficiaries were first recognized. The second revalidation happened in June 2022, when DAR reaffirmed the ARBs as the rightful owner of the 200-hectare land.
The reaffirmation underscored that 178 farmers from the original list of 236 ARBs should be installed on their land as their CLOAs remain legitimate.
Rosario’s father Rodolfo was a distant relative of Concepción Mayor Noel Villanueva, whose family controls the Tinang Samahang Nayon Multipurpose Cooperative Inc.
Villanueva claims DAR issued the cooperative a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). But his group has never submitted a copy of that claimed document.
On February 7, the DAR secretary also promised to issue a cease and desist order against further cultivation of the land by the cooperative following the installation.
Rosario’s husband is a truck driver. But, she said, trips come irregularly these days so he drives a tricycle to make up for the lean days.
“Wala kaming anak pero may mga pamangkin ako. Sampu kaming magkakapatid at wala kaming sariling lupa na pwedeng sakahan. Kaya nais lang namin talagang makuha ang karapatan namin sa lupa para makahinga na kami sa buhay ng konti,” Rosario shared.
(We do not have children, but I have nieces and nephews. We are ten siblings; we do not own any land that we can farm. All we want is to enjoy our right to the land so we can have a little ease in life.)