Hacienda Luisita farmers to receive land titles in days

Pia Ranada

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Around 5,800 qualified farmer-beneficiaries will be given land titles starting September 30 until mid-October

A HOAX. Despite the jumpstarting of the Hacienda Luiisita land distribution by the Department of Agrarian Reform, farmers protested in front of the Supreme Court on August 27, calling the process a hoax. Photos by Arcel Cometa

MANILA, Philippines – Starting Monday, September 30, qualified farmers of Hacienda Luisita will receive their land titles for the farm lots allocated to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER).

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) announced on Friday, September 27 that they will be distributing certified true copies of land titles to the 5,800 farmer-beneficiaries who signed and filed their Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU). The distribution will take place from September 30 to the middle of October.

The APFU was described by DAR Secretary Virgilio De Los Reyes as a representation of the farmer-beneficiaries’ “willingness to till and willingness to pay for the land.” The APFU is a requirement for farmers to get their land title, a document also called Certificate of Land Ownership Award or CLOA.

As of September 25, only 377 farmer-beneficiaries have yet to sign and file their APFUs. Meanwhile, 296 farmer-beneficiaries have not yet claimed their Lot Allocation Certificates (LAC), a document which determines the location of the land designated to them.

DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao gave assurances the agency is seeking out the farmers who have not yet filed their APFU or claimed their LACs. He said many of them are either working abroad or living outside Tarlac, preventing them from claiming the documents.

There are a total of 6,212 farmer-beneficiaries from 10 barangays. They are set to receive roughly 4,000 hectares of the 6,445-hectare hacienda as mandated by a historic Supreme Court ruling last April 24.

The schedule of distribution of land titles in the following barangays is listed below:

September 30 – Pando
October 1 – Motrico
October 2 – Lourdes
October 8 – Parang
October 9 – Mabilog
October 10 – Bantog
October 15 – Cutcut
October 16 – Asturias
October 17 – Balete
October 18 – Mapalacsiao

Parungao explained that under CARPER, farmer-beneficiaries have to pay amortizations for their CARPER-awarded land for a period of 30 years. In the meantime, the Owner’s Duplicate Copy of the CLOAs or land titles will be held by the Land Bank of the Philippines. But the land titles to be distributed starting Monday will nevertheless serve as proof of land ownership. 

After the land title distribution, DAR will delineate the boundaries of farm lots by installing monuments or boundary stones. Monumenting, Parungao explained, is the actual physical marking of lots with “muhons.”

But because the land is currently planted with mature sugar cane, monumenting can only be done after the harvest season in November. The farmer-beneficiares can only take actual physical possession of their land when the muhons or boundary stones are set.

Parungao is optimistic that all farmer-beneficiaries will physically possess their land by early 2014.

'NOT GENUINE LAND REFORM.' Farmers from Hacienda Luisita burn a sample of an Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU) during a protest in front of Supreme Court on August 27

Land distribution a “hoax”

But the road to the much-awaited land distribution has not been smooth.

On September 17, land reform advocates were arrested by Tarlac police in Hacienda Luisita while conducting a fact-finding mission looking into irregularities in the DAR’s “lottery land reform” system.

The advocates, led by Anakpawis Rep Fernando Hicap, were investigating reports of harrassment, fraud and land grabbing affecting farmer-beneficiaries.

Land reform advocacy group AMBALA called the land distribution scheme a “hoax,” saying farmer-beneficaries should not have to pay for land they already own.

When the hacienda became a company called Hacienda Luisita Inc (HLI) in 1988, farm workers became its co-owners by being given a third of the assets of the company.

“This asset is the 4,915 hectares of agricultural land,” said AMBALA in a statement.

“The farm workers were required to work to own their share in the asset of the corporation, then the qualified farm workers, having had rendered work to earn their share in the asset of HLI, should be considered to have paid the land. They earned it, owned it, and have already paid for it by their labor.”

The group says DAR misinterpreted the April 24 SC ruling when it required the farmer-beneficiares to pay amortization for 30 years.

“While it ordered the government to pay just compensation to HLI for the value of the home lot, it did not require the farm workers to pay for their home lots.  The SC also never mentioned in their decision that the farm workers should pay amortization to the lands to be awarded to them even if it ruled that the landlords should be compensated.”

But DAR Secretary De Los Reyes told Rappler on September 3, “The Supreme Court said this is going to be paid based on the 1989 valuation. There is no land under the CARP that is acquired by the government which the farmer-beneficiaries don’t pay. They have to pay, that’s based on the law. They’re paying to the government. The government will pay the Cojuangcos.”

Hacienda Luisita, said to be the second biggest contiguous piece of agricultural land in the country, is owned by the powerful Cojuangco family, to which President Benigno Aquino III belongs. Since the presidency of his mother, Corazon Aquino, the family has dodged government efforts to distribute the estate to farmers.

But an April 24 Supreme Court ruling awarded 4,000 hectares of the hacienda to farmers. – Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.