DAR chief’s writ favoring farmers over Lapanday ‘within just grounds’ — lawmaker

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) – Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano’s writ of installation allowing the displaced farmers to reclaim the contested 145-hectare banana plantation from the management of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) is “within just grounds,” a party-list lawmaker maintained.

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao told MindaNews on Friday that the persistence of the 159 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) to reclaim the land is “superior” and is “borne out of the collective struggle” of the group.

The writ was supposed to be executed on April 17 but was moved to April 21 when police refused to give assistance for some legal and technical issues, including the lack of operation plan for the installation.

At 4:02 p.m. Friday, Casilao said personnel from the Supervisory Officer for Security and Investigation Agencies, as instructed by Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan in Friday’s meeting with Mariano, conducted outpost checking and clearing operations to ensure there was no presence of the alleged 800 guards hired by the company before they would serve the writ.

The clearing operations started 2:30 p.m., the lawmaker said.

“It was a sense of relief that PRO 11 director Gaerlan adjusted his position in providing assistance to DAR’s implementation of the writ of installation due to certain legal issues which were properly answered and addressed by DAR Sec. Mariano and the ARBs, including the support group’s persistence in pushing through with the installation,” he said.

Linda Dayahan, a board member of MARBAI, in a phone interview said they will not stop until they reclaim their lands and that she is hopeful they will succeed.

“Our dream is to get our land that was taken from us by Lapanday,” she said.

The contested property was part of the 1,323.9272 hectares previously owned by Hijo Plantation Inc. that was awarded to the members of Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1) in 1996.

MARBAI is a breakaway group of HEARBCO-1.

MARBAI chairperson Mely Yu and her group were former officers and members of HEARBCO-1 before they were removed in 2010 and replaced by a new set of officers.

In January 2011, Yu and her group were banned from entering the premises by the security guards of HEARBCO 1. They then formed MARBAI, which consisted of 157 members, and filed a petition for reinstatement and accounting of harvest against HEARBCO 1.

In a case brief released by DAR, the property in question was part of the 1,323.9272 hectares previously owned by Hijo Plantation Inc. that voluntarily offered it for CARP coverage.

On October 18, 1999, HEARBCO 1 entered into a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with Hijo Plantation for a period of 10 years effective on the same date at a price of $2.10 per box at 13 kilogram per box.

Afterwards, Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corp. entered into a Deed of Assignment of Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement.

But the following day, October 19, LFC and HEARBCO 1 entered into a supplemental agreement amending the deal between the cooperative, Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corp.

In a statement, LFC opposed DAR’s writ of installation over portions of land that were already awarded to the members of HEARBCO-1.

LFC said it cannot be “dispossessed of the land and its existing management contract over the area” because the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 approved the compromise agreement between the company and HEARBCO-1.

Citing the court’s writ of execution issued on December 9, 2015 and alias writ of execution on November 21, 2016, it said the court recognized and upheld the company’s right to manage and possess the contested land area.

“This DAR action defies the final and executory orders of the Court. Ironically, the members of this breakaway group participated in the resolution of the legal dispute. Thus, they are bound by the subsequent legal orders that have now become final and executor,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)