Farmers elated, but seek DAR protection over Davao Oriental land grant

But the group raised fear over their security and want the DAR to protect them from harassments after they would be installed as the rightful owner of the land, said the Task Force Mapalad, a non-government organization supporting the farmers.

In a statement released to news organizations, Task Force Mapalad said DAR “should ensure their safety once they install the beneficiaries at the ARCAL Estate in Mandug village against any possible harassment upon their installation on July 13”.

Abel Naval, the group's spokesperson, said the DAR regional director, Rodolfo Inson, has revealed his decision to install the farmers during a dialogue with the group that picketed the DAR office Wednesday in time for the celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The group did not feel comfortable, however, despite the decision. Naval said DAR failed to define the mechanism for the protection of the lives of the beneficiaries against any form of resistance by the landowners.

The group quoted Inson as saying in the dialogue that "way mahayay, way basulay" (no regret, no blaming) if the beneficiaries will be harassed once installed.

"It is nothing but a threatening statement showing a lopsided political will of DAR to implement the agrarian reform law to its teeth," Naval said in the written statement to the media obtained by MindaNews late Friday afternoon.

Inson told MindaNews in an earlier interview that they would coordinate with the police and the military to secure the beneficiaries when they would be installed but said that it would only  be “up to a certain period”.

"We cannot be there for long to watch over them as they till the land," he told eporters Thurszday.

He said the DAR has no police powers but assured that they can call for assistance from the police to secure beneficiaries anytime.

Task Force Mapalad said the beneficiaries have been urging the Department to consider safety measures to secure them fearing that violence may erupt with the landowner's security guards.

Felipe Neri Esclito, spokesperson of the beneficiaries, was quoted in the press statement as saying that security personnel of the Arcal estate harassed them when they entered the property in September last year.

"DAR should not end its installation process by just physically appearing during the actual installation, but rather ensure as well the safety of the lives of beneficiaries beyond until complete peace of possession is achieved," Celestino dela Torre, who headed the beneficiaries association, was quoted as saying.

"Otherwise, such installation is nothing but installing them closer to their graves," he added.  

Inson said that the contested land is owned by the Garcia family based here in Davao City. The landowners have a pending petition at the Court of Appeals, contesting a DAR adjudication board decision clearing the way for the installation.

"It's a case of double titling," Inson said.

Nayal told MindaNews in an interview Friday night that there was no restraining order or temporary injunction issued by any court that would block the installation.

"So might as well proceed with the installation. If the CA decides in favor of the owners, then they have to order the farmers to vacate," he said.

MindaNews was not able to reach the owners for comments.