Task Force Sumilao prepares to launch simultaneous actions

According to Atty. Arlene Bag-ao, legal counsel of the Sumilao farmers, the farmers are losing faith in the sincerity of the public pronouncements of the Office of the President that the government is intent on distributing the 144-hectare property to the Sumilao farmers under the government’s agrarian reform program. She said that the DAR is acting more like guardian of the interests of San Miguel rather than the chief implementor of agrarian reform. “We have been wondering why the DAR has been waiting for SMFI to make its move while it should have already issued a Notice of Coverage to begin the process of distribution. They seem to have fallen into a bureaucratic stupor by refusing to immediately put the land under agrarian reform after the December 18 order declared the land as agricultural” Bag-ao said.  She said that while the DAR refused to move, SMFI has been continuing its illegal construction in the property which means that the government is losing land everyday.

Bro. Xavier Alpasa, SJ of the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, acting secretariat o the Task Force Sumilao created by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales said that they are alarmed by the governments inaction even after SMFI published a paid advertisement in major newspaper signifying, among others, its intent to make operational its hog farm beginning January 2008. “The continued construction in the Sumilao property and the SMFI paid ad were blatant affronts to the order of the Office of the President. SMFI’s action is tantamount to saying that it is defiant of the President’s order and we hear nothing from the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Office of the President” Alpasa said. Alpasa said that these apprehensions have already been conveyed to both President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo and DAR Sec. Nasser Pangandaman in a letter by Manila Auxiliary  Bishop Broderick Pabillo. Bishop Pabillo who is also the chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action of the CBCP, was designated by Cardinal Rosales as head of the Church Task Force on Sumilao.

Bro. Xavier Alpasa SJ said that the Church Task Force on Sumilao met last January 7 to discuss the development in the Sumilao case. He said that the farmers, through their representative Bajekjek Merida, have aired their apprehensions to the Church Task Force and relayed their plans to intensify their campaign. In response, Bishop Pabillo is going to Cagayan de Oro tomorrow to confer with Bukidnon Bishop Honesto Pacana and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma on the Church’s response to the current status of the case. Bishop Pabillo is also scheduled to celebrate Mass with the picketing Sumilao farmers in Cagayan de Oro City. He will also visit San Vicente, Sumilao where he will meet with Sumilao farmers to discuss the possible support of the Church to the plans of farmers for simultaneous actions in Cagayan de Oro and Manila. The Sumilao farmers are planning to send a delegation back to Manila to push DAR and the Office of the President for immediate action to implement the December 18 OP order.

#3 Mahabagin St., Teachers Village, Diliman, Quezon City
9254303, 9266042, 4330760
09 January 2009
Ref.  Josel Gonzales (Manila) –
Kaka Bag-ao (Cagayan de Oro/Bukidnon)