Tagum farmers seek Duterte’s help in land row vs Lapanday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 April) – Members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City are planning to travel to Manila this week and camp outside Malacañan Palace to urge President Rodrigo R. Duterte to intervene in their land dispute with fruit giant Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC).

MARBAI chairperson Mely Yu said in a phone interview Monday that they have become desperate after LFC twice refused to honor the writ of installation issued by Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.

The group is trying to reclaim possession of a 145-hectare land that was awarded to them as agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“Hinaut unta nga iya me matabangan maimplement ang writ of installation (We hope he could help implement the writ of installation),” Yu said.

But the president usually spends his weekends in his home in Davao City.

Yu said they will also camp outside Camp Crame in Quezon City to show Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa their dissatisfaction over how the police responded to Mariano’s request for assistance when he attempted to execute the writ of installation.

She alleged the police, who claimed there were only 29 armed guards during their clearing operations last April 21, did not search the entire 145-hectare banana plantation. She maintained there were about 800 armed guards.

The writ was supposed to be executed on April 17 but the police refused to provide assistance and questioned some technicalities and legal issues in the DAR’s order, including the lack of operational plan for the installation.

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the writ is within just grounds.

He said the persistence of the 159 members of MARBAI to reclaim is “superior” and is “borne out of the collective struggle of the agrarian reform beneficiaries.”

But the LFC, in a statement, maintained that DAR’s action defies the “final and executory orders of the Court.”

The company said it is opposing the DAR’s writ of installation over portions of land because they were already awarded to the members of Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1).

It said that it cannot be “dispossessed of the land and its existing management contract over the area” because the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 approved the compromise agreement between LFC 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.

MARBAI is a breakaway group of HEARBCO-1.

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 at a price of $2.10 per box at 13 kilogram per box.

Afterwards Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corporation signed 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 agreement executed between the cooperative, Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corp. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)