Sumilao farmers dialogue with DAR’s Pangandaman

The farmers had an early breakfast in Ateneo.  And before embarking their walk to the House of Representatives and DAR Central Office, a Eucharistic celebration was offered, celebrated by Fr. Primitivo Viray, Jr., SJ, Fr. Noel Vasquez, SJ, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, and a diocesan priest sent by Bishop Honesto Pacana, SJ from Bukidnon.

After the mass, the farmers were oriented on the route they will be taking for the day.  By 9 am, the farmers started to walk from Ateneo to the House of Representatives.  They passed at the University of the Philippines where other support groups waited for them.   There was a very long stretch of marchers numbering more than 500.  Representative Risa Hontiveros of AKBAYAN joined the walk as well.

The farmers were welcomed in the House of Representatives and met with the Committee of Agrarian Reform chaired by Rep. Elias Bulut Jr.   The farmers pressed their sentiment for the extension of CARP beyond 2008.  There was no categorical commitment from the committee except for the usual reply of government that it will try to study the proposal.

It was also in the House of Representatives that they ate their lunch.

From the House of Representatives, the farmers proceeded to DAR Central Office in Quezon city.   To symbolize their ardent hope of recovering their land, the representatives of MAPALAD and SALFA lighted a torch.  Thereafter, they walked around the Quezon City circle, and upon having settled at the gate of DAR, Bishop Romeo Arguelles celebrated a mass.  

By 7:00 pm, DAR Secretary Pangandaman and top ranking officials of DAR talked to the farmers with their lawyers and supporters including, among others, Risa Hontiveros and Etta Rosales.   While the negotiation was going, the 2 datus of the farmers performed a ritual asking for the spirits to enlighten the mind of Pangandaman.

During the dialogue, the farmers demanded for DAR to immediately issue a cease and desist order to stop the SMFI/MFC from further constructing of buildings within the 144 hectares for their piggery project.   Sec. Pangandaman, however, refused to issue the order until he hears the arguments of both parties (SMFI/MFC and the Sumilao farmers), which they should submit within 3 days from receipt of his order.

 

Pangandaman's stance raised the ire of the farmers because it was an obvious manifestation of his lack of political will to resolve the case the "soonest time possible" as he had promised.   The lawyers and supporters of the farmers expressed the same indignation against Pangandaman's decision.  Nevertheless, Pangandaman chose to stand by his apparently biased decision for SMFI/MFC.

After their dialogue, Sec. Pangandaman and his subordinates went back to their offices.  Soon thereafter, the farmers saw tinted expensive cars enter the DAR office.  Said cars were alleged to belong to the representatives of San Miguel.   This elicited apprehension to the farmers.  They are afraid that DAR will rule in favor SMFI/MFC.

To show their resolve of recovering their land they stayed and slept in the DAR Office.  They intend to stay in the DAR until it will issue its decision.

This morning, (Dec. 7), the farmers went to Malacanang.  Upon reaching the Nagtahan bridge, the policemen together with the ranking officers of the Philippine National Police blocked the farmers from walking further.   Fr. Pascual of Caritas Manila helped negotiate with the police.  After almost 2 hours of negotiation, the farmers were eventually permitted to proceed to Malacanang.   There, Mr. Samuel Merida, Elgine Merida (Mr. Merida's daughter), Napoleon Merida, Jr., and Rene Penas delivered their speeches.

However, they did not stay long in Malacanang.  Right after they shared their struggle, they proceeded to Caritas Manila.   At present, they are on their way back to DAR, where they will spend the night.

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