DAY 37: Sumilao farmers have walked 920 kilometers

They rested and ate their lunch at St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish, an ancient church built in 1818.

After taking their lunch, they attended to their personal needs.  Some decided to sleep, others washed their clothes, massaged their feet, while others talked with the local parishioners.

At 5 in the afternoon, they heard regular mass officiated by Fr. Bob Banares and Fr. Ton Pet Ballares.  They talked to the farmers after the mass, and generously gave the amount received from the offering to the farmers.

By nighttime, some officers of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and employees of Ligao city, headed by its administrative officer, visited the farmers. 

BINHI-PAKISAMA, a people's organization in the city, prepared dinner for the farmers. UNORKA, another peasant group in the city also visited the farmers and gave their support.

Before sleeping, the farmers had a short gathering to discuss the plan for the walk the following day. 

Probably due to physical exhaustion, many of the farmers did not sleep well.   Some were heard talking on their sleep, while few others sobbed.   

To date, the farmers have already covered 920 kilometers, more than half the distance of their total journey from barangay San Vicente, Sumilao in Bukidnon to Manila.    

Yesterday also marked their 36 th day of walk. 

On their 36 days of walking, three of the marchers celebrated their wedding anniversaries on the road.   Last October 11, the second day of their walk, Roberto Rosente celebrated his 8th wedding anniversary.    On November 8, while they were in Samar, Rene Penas celebrated his 27th year wedding anniversary.   And yesterday (Nov. 14) marked the 10th wedding anniversary of Roger Anlicao.  

Their families in Sumilao, Bukidnon just lighted a candle to remember such important occasion in their life.

13 November 2007

At around 10 am on November 13, the farmers arrived in Daraga, where they were warmly welcomed by PAKISAMA-Daraga, Mayor Ching Triumpante and Vice Mayor Len Magayanes and other officers and employees of the city government, the Daraga Parishes, and the seminarians of the Diocese of Legazpi and Masbate and Virac-Mater Salutis College Seminary.

They arrived in said city after walking 20 kilometers from the municipality of Pilar.   The Cope Foundation helped and guided the farmers in their walk.  Upon their arrival, they rested at the Ninoy Aquino gym in Daraga city.

A mass was celebrated to uplift the spirits of the marchers. Four priests facilitated said mass, namely: Rev. Father Ramoncito Segubiense, Rev. Msgr. Noe 'Weng' Thomas, Rev. Fr. Marlon Bron and Rev. Joseph Salando.

After the mass, they held a program initiated by the local government of Daraga City, attended by no less than Mayor Ching Triumpante and Vice-Mayor Len Magayanes. 

The program helped to uplift the morale of the Sumilao farmers.   The Vice-Mayor stressed that she will always support the struggle of the Sumilao Farmers. They learned that the vice mayor was once a fellow paralegal of PESANTEch (a coalition of law groups composed of SALIGAN, KAISAHAN, and BALAOD-Mindanaw).   She was also among the individuals who visited them during their hunger strike 10 years ago. 

The culmination of the program was the messages of solidarity from various groups who attended the program – PAKISAMA-Bicol (Binhi-Albay, MAGSAKA-Cam. Sur., FMPC-Iriga City, FUERSA-Pasacao), SAC Legazpi, AMIGA-Daraga, Alcala Farmers' Association, DAR Province, DA, DSWD, LGU-Daraga, DOH, PNP, Matis Salutis College Seminary, Daraga Community College, Cope Foundation and Marriage Encounter Group-Choir.

Revisiting the Sumilao Case:

Sumilao Farmers as Qualified Beneficiaries

Republic Act 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) is a social legislation enacted primarily to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the basic human rights of the farmers, particularly those who are landless. Two of the salient features of the law are its comprehensive definition of Agrarian Reform and the enumerated qualifications before a farmer could benefit under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The law defined Agrarian Reform in the Philippine context and not of another. Agrarian Reform, accordingly to the law, is the redistribution of lands, regardless of crops or fruits produced to farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, irrespective of tenurial arrangement, it includes the totality of factors and support services designed to lift the economic status of the beneficiaries and all other arrangements alternative to the physical distribution lands, such as production or profit sharing, labor administration, and distribution of shares of stock, which will allow beneficiaries to receive a just share of the fruits of the land they work.

The law further says that the land to be distributed should be agricultural land, and the same shall be distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same barangay, or in the absence thereof, landless residents of the same municipality in the following order of priority: a) agricultural lessees and shared tenants; b) regular farmworkers; c) seasonal farmworkers; d) other farmworkers; e) actual tillers of occupants of public lands; f) collectives or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and g) other directly working on the land.

Based on the foregoing, the Sumilao Farmers are without doubt qualified CARP beneficiaries. Though there are no agricultural lessees and shared tenants in the disputed land, the Sumilao Farmers were once regular farmworkers of the Quisumbings. They are likewise actual residents of Brgy. San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon where the landholding is situated. The land is prime agricultural land and they were occupying and personally tilling the land.

Not to mention that the land was owned and originally possessed by the ancestors of the Sumilao Farmers – the Higaonons. Legally and logically, the land should be given to the Sumilao Farmers. But because of the influence, money and capacity of few influential personalities, they were able to circumvent the law and became successful in grabbing the said land.

It is sad to note that up to this date, they are being deprived of the land that is from time immemorial, legally theirs.

The Call of the Sumilao Farmers:

Revoke the Conversion Order which allowed the Land Conversion!

Enraged by the evils that Quisumbing and Cojuangco have committed, the Sumilao Farmers, led by 28 MAPALAD Farmers together with 90 SALFA Landless Farmers, filed a petition for the Cancellation of the Conversion Order before the DAR Secretary on 3 November 2004. The petition is based on the following grounds:

·                                 Non-compliance with the conditions of the conversion order;

·                                 Failure to commence any development work on the property within 1 year from the issuance or the finality of the Conversion Order on August 25, 1999;

·                                 Non-completion of the development plan on the property within 5 years from the issuance or the finality of the Conversion Order on August 25, 1999;

·                                 Failure to submit written request for extension within 6 months before the lapse of the 5 year period;

·                                 Failure to submit quarterly reports on the status of the development to the MARO, PARO and the DAR Regional Office as required by the Rules;

·                                 Non-observance of the conditions for the use of the land as authorized in the Conversion Order by Quisumbing and his successor-in-interest, SMFI; and

·                                 Unauthorized change of use of the land from the development plan as approved in the Conversion Order to a 144-hectare piggery farm without the prior consent from the DAR.

It is worth mentioning that the present petition does not assail the previous Supreme Court decision approving the Conversion Order as it has already gained finality. On the contrary, the Sumilao Farmers contend that the conditions of the Conversion Order are but proper.

Legal Standing of the Sumilao Farmers is beyond doubt

The ancestors of the Sumilao Farmers have been working on the land since time immemorial. Even after they were forcibly evicted by unscrupulous landowners from their very own land, they worked as farm laborers under Quisumbing and later for Del Monte for several years. In fact, the Sumilao Farmers were declared the owners of the 144-hectare land by virtue of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award duly given to them by the government in 1995. If not for the illegal conversion of the land as approved by the Office of the President, the Sumilao Farmers would have remained as absolute owners thereof. Without doubt, the Sumilao Farmers have a real interest in the status of the 144-hectare land.

The previous Supreme Court decision which stated that the MAPALAD Farmers do not have legal standing in the case because they were merely "recommendee farmer beneficiaries" does not affect their legal standing in the present petition as the same was merely an obiter dictum, not the ratio decidendi of the case. Ratio decidendi is an analysis of what the court actually decided on and is essentially based on the legal points over which the parties in the case actually contend. All other statements about the law in the text of a court opinion are obiter dicta which are not rules for which the particular case stands.

The Supreme Court decision was purely based on technical grounds, to wit, the failure of the DAR to appeal the case on time. All other pronouncements in the previous Supreme Court decision, including the legal standing of the MAPALAD Farmers, are merely obiter dictum.

Today and Tomorrow

Today, they are currently traversing the stretch of Ligao City to the Municipality of Bula with a distance of 42 kilometers. Tomorrow, another 20 kilometers will be endured by the Sumilao Farmers as they head off to Naga City.



Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (BALAOD Mindanaw)

Door 3 Balay Mindanaw SIAD Peace Center

53A 12th St., zone II, Upper Bulua

9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

+63 8822 738794

+63 8822 738794 (telefax)