Naga City passes resolution in support of Sumilao farmers

Donations from community folks are still prevalent. The marchers received supports in money and in kind. Such overwhelming supports were highly appreciated. It certainly lifted the hearts of the farmers. 
 
The Sumilao Farmers were joined by different like-minded groups in the day's walk. They were Lakas ng Kababaihan, Naga City Peoples' Council LGU, SALIGAN, Coalition for Bicol Development, Coca-Cola Workers' Union-Bicol Region, Casureco Fraternity and Kumon.
 
The highlight of the day was when the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Naga City Unanimously approved Resolution No. 2007-347, Declaring Solidarity and Support to the Quest of Lumad Farmers of Sumilao, Bukidnon to Recover Their Land.
 
The message of the Resolution was that the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Naga City shares the same sentiments with the Sumilao Farmers and that there should be recognition of their rights over their ancestral land. It was the LGU's reaffirmation of their support to the Sumilao Farmers' struggle to recover the land that is legally and rightfully theirs.
 
At the end of the day, the farmers rested with a smile on their faces and likewise hope that these supports will soon be translated to a tangible government action distributing the disputed 144-hectare land in Sumilao, Bukdinon to them.
 
17 November 2007
 
The following day, the Sumilao Farmers started walking at around 4:35AM negotiating the stretch of Naga City to Sta. Rosa, Pasacao with 30 kilometers.
 
They had a stop over in the Municipality of San Fernando, Camarines Sur to have a breakfast with the Municipal Mayor Fermin Mabolo. They were welcomed by the good mayor with a simple meal that was prepared as a manifestation of his support to the marchers. 
 
They arrived in St. Rose Ublima, Brgy. Sta. Rosa del Norte, Camarines Sur at around 2:00PM. They were welcomed by the locals with a warm welcome party. The Sumilao Farmers got acquainted with the people who visited them. They got to know Ragay and Limbanan Farmers, Bicol Christian Life Community, LGu of San Fernando, DAR Province, Guardians Republicans, SALIGAN and Caseres Social Action Foundation Inc.
 

A small program was likewise conducted where it was actively participated by the LGUs of San Fernando. To educate the public, Rene Peñas delivered a short message stressing the history of the Sumilao Farmers' struggle. Rev. Fr. Mike dela Rosa gave an inspiration message. He delved on the struggle of the Sumilao Farmers that as long as they are holding the truth, justice will be served in their favor.

The short program was concluded with a reflection from the farmers that what they are asking is the 144-hectare land that is legally theirs.
 
Revisiting the Sumilao Case:
 

Petitioners are the community residents and qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) who are directly affected by the conversion

The petitioners in this case are landless farmers, farmworkers, and community residents in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. Being such, they undoubtedly have a paramount interest on the instant petition as they are the immediate community residents who are directly affectedby the conversion of the land. Being such, they undoubtedly have a paramount interest on the instant petition.
 
Further, the petitioner-farmers being the landless residents of San Vicente, Sumilao, are the qualified farmer beneficiaries under theComprehensive Agrarian Reform Law:
 

SEC. 22. Qualified Beneficiaries. – The lands covered by the CARP 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:

  1. agricultural lessess and share tenants;
  2. regular farmworkers;
  3. seasonal farmworkers;
  4. other farmworkers;
  5. actual tillers or occupants of public lands;
  6. collective or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and
  7. others directly working on the land.

It is also worth mentioning that petitioners Paterno Tuminhay and Renato Peñas are the incumbent Barangay Kagawads of San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, hence, they have the moral and political obligation to be vigilant on matters affecting their jurisdiction.

On this note, several DAR policy issuances pertinent to protest to conversion of agricultural lands recognize the legal standing of the community residents and landless farmers on the matter:

  1. DAR Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1990

Article VIII.  "Protest or opposition against the application for conversion may be applied by any person who may be displaced with the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) xxx"

  1. DAR Administrative Order No. 12, series of 1994

Article XIV.  "The Regional CLUPPI shall evaluate written protest filed by any person who may be displaced or affected by the proposed land use conversion"

  1. DAR Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1999

Article IV. Section 18. Who May File. – Any person who will be displaced or directly affected by the proposed land use conversion such as occupants, tenants, farmworkers, identified beneficiaries, bona fide residents of adjoining properties or communities may file a written protest against the application for conversion xxx Provided, that in case the protestant or oppositor is an identified beneficiary under the agrarian reform program of the land applied for and who failed to file a written protest within the said period due to fraud, accident, mistake or excusable neglect, he shall have the right to intervene at any time during the pendency of the application.

  1. DAR Administrative Order No. 1, series of 2004
Section 16. Protest.  Persons affected by the proposed land use conversion, such as identified beneficiaries, farmers, agricultural lessees, share tenants, actual tillers, occupants or residents of adjoining properties or communities, may file a written protest xxx. An oppositor who is an identified Agrarian Reform Beneficiary (ARB) of the land applied for conversion, and who failed to file a written protest within the period due to FISTS, may intervene at any time during the pendency of the application
 
Although the above-cited provisions refer to the legal standing of identified beneficiaries, farmers, agricultural lessees, share tenants, actual tillers, occupants or residents of adjoining properties or communities to protest to applications for conversion of agricultural lands, the same principle applies to petitions for cancellation of approved conversion orders.
 
The present petition for cancellation of the conversion order is synonymous to a protest by the community residents and landless farmers themselves who were directly affected by the failure of NQSRMDC and its successor-in-interest SMFI to comply with the conditions of the conversion order to the great detriment of the community residents and landless farmers who could have benefited from the land which remained idle and uncultivated for 10 years.
 
The fact the SMFI plans to illegally transform the whole 144-hectare property into a piggery farm right in the midst of the farmers' residents, in violation of the authorized development plan in the conversion order, raises immediate concern to the petitioners. The active participation of the actual residents and the landless farmers in filing the instant petition, as they are the ones who are directly affected thereby, confirms their legal standing to petition its cancellation.
 
The petitioners also bring the instant petition under the doctrine ofintergenerational responsibility as enunciated in the case of Oposa vs. Factoran.  Essentially, the principle means that we hold the natural resource treasures of the earth in trust for the benefit, enjoyment and use of the generations of humankind yet to come. Petitioners herein, as the actual residents and qualified farmer-beneficiaries of the 144-hectare land, represent not only themselves but also future generations who are directly affected by NQSRMDC and SMFI's illegal conversion of the land, and who are the future beneficiaries thereof.
 

Furthermore, the effect of granting the petition for revocation of the conversion order is the reversion of the land to the status of agricultural lands and shall be subject to CARP coverage as circumstances may warrant. The petitioners and their future generations will be the beneficiaries of the subject land's CARP coverage under Section 22 of RA 6657. The cancellation of the Conversion Order will result in the reversion of the land to agricultural use which is coverable under CARP.  In other words, the cancellation of the Conversion Order will redound to the benefit of the Sumilao Farmers and their future generations, otherwise, they will suffer the consequences if the Conversion Order will be upheld.



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)
[email protected]
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