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PHILIPPINES: Day 3: Farmers run against landlords



PHILIPPINES: Day 3: Farmers run against landlords

Manila, December 4, 2008 -- On its third day of run, farmers from two of the country's influential landlords -- the Arroyos and the Yulos -- sought urgent intervention from members of the Senate and the Houses of Representatives to address their desperate plight.

Apart from the farmers in Hacienda Bacan in Isabela, Negros Occidental -- which is owned by President Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel -- farmers from Hacienda Yulo in Laguna province, have also been deprived from owning the land they have been cultivating.

Of the 7,100 hectares of land in Hacienda Yulo, about 3,256 of it is being claimed by the farmers whose ancestors have been occupying and cultivating the land since 1905. It was first given to the Madrigal Family during the Spanish Colonization, however, it was later transferred to Jose Miguel Yulo, whose family is the present owner.

At least 1,354 farmer beneficiaries are seeking ownership to the land. Even before the law obligating the government to distribute lands to landless farmers, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme (CARP), was made into law as early as 1960s, the ancestors of the present claimants and the claimants themselves, who were young then, have began their fight to own the land.

In 1990, three years after the CARP was made into law, the farmer beneficiaries applied for inclusion in the land for distribution under the CARP. However, surprisingly despite the farmers' pending applications three years later the land has been declared exempted from CARP, on the pretext that it is industrial and commercial land. Under the CARP, lands of this classification are exempted from distribution.

However, the process of the conversion of the land, which resulted in the lands exemption from distribution, has been highly questionable. At the time, the municipal mayor Jesus Miguel Yulo, the son of the owner and the zoning administrator -- who have had connections with the Yulos -- have deliberately abused their authority. They have used their influence by converting the contested land to industrial, to ensure that it would be exempted from distribution.

It was learned though that since 1993 the land has been idle, neither used for industrial nor for commercial purposes. The municipal government of Calamba have likewise issued a certification which affirms that the contested land has been idle.

The said certification was submitted to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for them to reconsider the earlier decision exempting the land; however, the DAR nevertheless stood firm to its previous decision exempting the land for distribution.

In 2006, after learning the irregularities in the process of the exemption, the farmers filed a petition seeking to revoke the land's classification which remains pending. Also, Nasser Pangandaman, the DAR secretary, has also repeatedly denied the farmers' petition to revoke the earlier decision exempting the land from CARP citing its questionable conversion, on several occasions. The DAR has stood firm on its earlier decision.

In 2007, the Yulos instead offered to distribute home-lots to farmers, which measure about 150 square meters, to each beneficiary and cash worth PHP13,000 (USD263) supposedly as “disturbance compensation”; however, expectedly the farmers have refused their offer. One of the farmers said that what they needed is not home-lots, but land to farm and somewhere they could build their homes.
To date, the farmer's petition asking the DAR to reconsider its earlier decision is not showing any progress. This was the issue the farmers brought as they run from the head office of the DAR towards the House of Representatives.

Not only the farmers from Hacienda Yulo have sought for legislators' intervention, farmers from the Arroyo's have also sought the help from members of Senate.

After the 7-kilometre run from DAR to the House of Representatives was completed, a separate run, this time farmers from the Arroyo land, also took place which began from the Baclaran Church in Coastal Road, in Manila, towards the Senate building.

Shortly after the farmers arrived, led by Catholic priest Fr. Robert Reyes, a staff member of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), at the Senate some of them also joined the Senate committee hearing on the Arroyo land. The Senate's committee on agrarian reform was conducting an inquiry, in aid of legislation, as to why the Arroyo farmer's land in Negros Occidental have not been able to acquire the land under the CARP.

After the committee hearing was concluded it still failed to come out with a concrete resolution to immediately address the Arroyo farmers' demand to ensure the speedy distribution of the contested land to them.


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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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