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TARLAC, Philippines– For the nth time, the 90 members of the Malayang Kilusang Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang) waited in vain on Wednesday, April 26 for the promised installation on their share of a 200-hectare sugarcane plantation.
The agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) also expressed surprise at Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) officials’ recent mention of waiting for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s approval of “condonation.”
Condonation is waiving any delinquencies on land payments.
Ayik Casilao, the president of the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), told Rappler the condonation refers to a new law passed by Congress a month ago so ARBs won’t have to for pending payments for the land.
In March, the Senate and House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report that resolved contradicting provisions of Senate Bill 1850 and House Bill 6336.
Casilao said militant farmers groups support condonation as they have fought for it for a long time.
“Long overdue na itong condonation,” he said, noting that the government will pick up farmers arrears and interests. Those who have paid will also receive some financial assistance, educational assistance.”
“Antayin muna daw yung condonation announcement ni President Bongbong kung saan kasama ang TF Tinang tapos kung may announcement, baka daw pumunta sila ngayon dito,” she said.
(They said, wait for a condonation announcement by President Bongbong where he will include Task Force Tinang, then after that, they may come here.)
The DAR officials were probably referring to the signing of the law by the President. The New Agrarian Emancipation Act would burnish Marcos Jr’s social justice image. It would effectively condone the debts of more than. 600,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries – and cost the state P57.55 billion.
No legal impediment
Jobert Pahilga, MAKISAMA-Tinang lawyer, however, said there is no legal impediment for the implementation of the writ of execution.
“There is no legal impediment now for the implementation of the writ of execution that was issued by the regional director. The condonation is about payments on the land. They haven’t even been installed, why should they pay?” he told Rappler.
The Makisama farmers have received their certificates of land ownership award (CLOA). They have been validated and re-validated by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
But they have waited more than 30 years for actual possession of the land.
MAKISAMA-Tinang spokesperson Abby Bucad said the members and their families waited for 10 hours in searing temperature on April 25 and 26 at their makeshift hut for the DAR officials.
“Not a shadow of them in sight,’ Bucad said in Tagalog.
Waiting for task force report
Casilao earlier told Rappler he expected a report by Task Force Tinang within the day.
“We had talked with DAR. We are expecting the report of TF Tinang, which the DAR created to resolve the agrarian issues in Hacienda Tinang,” Casilao said in a mix of English and Tagalog.
“As per exchange of communication with Undersecretary (Napoleon) Galit, yes, we are expecting them to deliver this report today as promised,” he added.
MAKISAMA-Tinang members expect to be affirmed as eligible agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of the 200-ha land with finality, said Casilao.
The original CLOA lists 236 eligible ARBs, including farmers affiliated with a cooperative owned by the family of Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva, who wants a bigger share of the land.
Villanueva has consistently claimed his cooperative has a CLOA but has never produced this to the DAR or to congressional investigators.
He also told Rappler in an interview that the cooperative, despite its two-decade management of the hacienda, failed to authenticate its CLOA.
Casilao said the report should specify the amount of land to be distributed, and issuance of installation order with specific date and time.
Disappointed at the end of the two-day wait, the farmers have agreed to troop to the DAR central office on Thursday, April 27 to demand their rights and be installed, Bucad said.
The ARBs were initially expecting the 45 days to end on March 24.
However, DAR told them that the 45 days officially started on February 15 when the Task Force Tinang was established.
The count only covers business days, excluding weekends and holidays, DAR officials said.
The new holidays announced by Malacanang made the wait longer, Bucad bewailed.
She also said DAR officials should have given them some courtesy by calling to explain any further delays.
Pahilga acknowledged that the promised installation was made verbally, during a dialogue, and not backed by a document.
“But of course, people expected something,” the lawyer pointed out.
For three decades, the members of MAKISAMA-Tinang have been waiting to till their promised land.
Since 2016, they have been going back and forth to the DAR regional and central office in San Fernando Pampanga and Manila. In April 2018, DAR released the award order.
The certificate of finality was issued in November of the same year. In 2019, the writ of execution was served.
On June 9, 2022, a cultivation activity led to a violent police dispersal and the arrest scores of members, peasant advocates, and journalists.
Less than two weeks after the dispersal, DAR reaffirmed 178 farmers of Hacienda Tinang as the rightful owners of the disputed 200-ha land.
A few more days later, the Tinang farmers were cleared of the charges over the dispersed tilling activity.
Since then, several members of the MAKISAMA-Tinang have died. Felino Cunanan, the group’s chairman died on November 6 a day after a military officer in plain clothes inquired about their organization and linked them as supporters of the New People’s Army.