Tagum AR beneficiaries to be installed with or without police assistance

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will proceed with the installation Friday of farmers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) in a contested land in Tagum City with or without police assistance, an official of a farmers group said Thursday.

MARBAI is claiming a 145-hectare land in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City which forms part of a 1,323.9272-ha property previously owned by Hijo Plantation Inc. but was awarded to the farmers of as agrarian reform beneficiaries in 1996.

In a phone interview Thursday, Antonio Tuyac, spokesperson of Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang sa Tinood nga Repormang Agraryo (UMGA-TRA), said DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano will execute the writ of installation that was postponed to April 21 when police authorities refused to provide assistance.

Police cited some technicalities, lack of operational plan for the installation, and a court order that recognized the right of Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) to manage and possess the area.

But Tuyac said the secretary insisted DAR has jurisdiction over land disputes as the agency has quasi-judicial powers “to adjudicate agrarian reform issues and determine matters involving the implementation of agrarian laws.”

In a statement, LFC opposed DAR’s writ of installation over portions of land that were already awarded to the members of Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1).

MARBAI is a breakaway group 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.

In a DAR press release on April 18, Mariano ordered DAR 11 officials to “secure police and/or military assistance in ensuring the peaceful, orderly and effective installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) that have claimed lands awarded to them in Tagum, Davao del Norte.”

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. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)