DAR installs farmers on disputed Davao del Norte land

May 18, 2017 - 6:55 AM
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Pres. Rodrigo Duterte meeting with MARBAI farmers at their protest camp in Mendiola. (image from News5 video)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:49 p.m.) The Department of Agrarian Reform on Thursday installed agrarian reform beneficiaries on a 145-hectare banana plantation in Tagum City, Davao del Norte where the land dispute has turned violent in the past.

The installation pushed through despite the opposition of Lapanday Foods Corporation and a rival farmers’ group that claimed the order to install the members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. is not only illegal as it violates a previous court order but also goes against President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier instruction to uphold the law.

But Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said the installation of the MARBAI farmers was endorsed by Duterte when he met with the beneficiaries during a protest camp at Mendiola earlier this month.

The DAR also ordered the provincial police to assist with the installation. Earlier, the agency blamed the police’s refusal to provide assistance for the failure of an earlier installation attempt.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan congratulated the MARBAI farmers who “tore down the barriers that stood in the way of their rightful claim to their land” and thanked Mariano “for standing with the farmers up to this day, ensuring that the installation order is enforced.”

However, Lapanday and the other farmers’ group, Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1, said the installation puts the police in a bind since Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 has also asked provincial police director Marcial Magsitrado IV to help enforce its writ of execution in a civil case between the two rival organizations.

The writ allows Lapanday to manage the property under a commercial agreement with HEARBCO-1.

However, the DAR contends that the writ is not enforceable since the case did not go through its Adjudication Board and the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council.

The land dispute turned violent December last year when plantation guards opened fire at barricading members of MARBAI in two incidents, wounding nine of them.

Last month, the New People’s Army attacked the box plants of Lapanday and two other facilities owned by the Lorenzo family in Davao City, torching the factories and disarming security guards.