Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano yesterday again denied the application of the Negros Occidental provincial government for exclusion of its 147.2865-hectare property where its Negros First Ranch is located in barangays Sta. Rosa and Canlandog, Murcia, from land reform.
Mariano, who was in Bacolod Saturday, had vowed to enforce distributive justice in Negros which he called a “bastion of landlordism” with the largest balance of undistributed land under CARP at 101,000 hectares.
The Negros Occidental provincial government represented by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. had filed a motion for partial reconsideration to the order of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes on May 10 denying its application for exclusion of the Negros First Ranch property where the provincial government raises cattle and sheep.
Mariano, in his resolution released yesterday, denied the governor's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit and affirmed the May 10 ruling.
A group of protestors claiming to be the rightful agrarian reform beneficiaries of the Sta. Rosa property had been camping-out at the back of the provincial Capitol in Bacolod to demand their installation on the property.
On Saturday, Mariano met with the protesting farmers at their camp and later with Marañon, and promised to come out with a decision this week.
Mariano directed the Regional Director of DAR Region VI to issue the corresponding certificate of exemption to the provincial government for the 12-hectare rejected portion of the ranch property identified as Lot No. 2 based on DAR Memorandum Circular No. 34, Series of 1997.
The properties denied exemption were Lot No. 1 with an area of 50 hectares covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-091-2012000118 purchased from George C. Arguelles on March 30 2012; and Lot No. 3 covered by TCT No. T-105292, with an area of 97.2865 hectares purchased from the heirs of Alfonso Arguelles, Rosalina Exaltado, Alicia Arguelles, Lydia Arguelles and Fernando Arguelles on Dec. 29, 2010.
The three properties were purchased by the provincial government for a total of about P41.2 million, figures in their deeds of sale show.
Lot 1 was purchased at P13,900,000, Lot 2 – P3,044,525, and Lot 3 at P24,321,625, the documents show.
Mariano said the provincial government did not dispute the fact that before June 15, 1988 and until 2010, when it bought 97.2865 hectares in Lot 3 and in 2012, when it bought Lot 1, the parcels of land were not used anymore for cattle-raising.
DAR records show that before June 15, 1988 and until 2010 or 2012, the land ceased to be used for cattle-raising. Hence, they can be and were rightfully placed under the coverage of CARP, he said.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Teresita Mabunay's report remains undisputed. George Arguelles voluntarily offered to sell Lot No. 1 before the DAR municipal officer of Murcia, Negros Occidental. As a result, the DARMO conducted preliminary activities to cover the lot up to the point where the Claim Folders was forwarded to the DAR provincial office for processing and documentation, Mariano said.
On the other hand, before the sale, 58.0574-hectare portion of Lot 3 had already been covered and were issued CLOAs.
These facts merely show that subject lands are proper subject of coverage, Mariano said.
While it may be true that the provincial government now devotes the parcels of land purchased from Arguelles family for public use and purpose, the implementation of agrarian reform is also for public use and interest, he added.
Mariano issued the order in response to the complaints of farmers against Marañon Jr. on the alleged unjust eviction of farmers to develop the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm.
He reiterated his position that “no farmers should be evicted from the farm he/she is tilling.”
The farmers claimed Marañon resorted to harassment and intimidation by using government troops after the DAR issued a decision in favor of the farmers in May.
Since July 15, members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas in Negros and the Hacienda Ilimnan Farmworkers Association-National Federation of Sugar Workers-UMA have staged a peasant camp-out behind the Capitol to protest against the alleged harassment and unjust eviction of farmers.
The DAR denied our petition for exclusion, but they cannot acquire or take over the property, said Negros Occidental Provincial Legal Officer Jose Ma. Valencia, who maintained the provincial government did not violate the law.
The CARP law expired so they have no authority to acquire the land unless a new law is passed, he added.
The DAR rejected the 97 hectares property when it was offered under Voluntarily Offer to Sell because it is located in a slopping and hilly area, so no beneficiaries were identified, Valencia also pointed out.
The DAR cannot expropriate Lots 1 and 3 considering that they are now for public use and purpose, he insisted.
This is not the end of the road, there are other legal remedies available, the provincial government remains the owner of the Sta. Rosa property, he said.
The provincial government can also bring the case to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, Valencia said.
Danilo Tabura, Hacienda Ilimnan Farm Workers Association chairman, said he and his companions at the protest camp behind the Capitol are happy with the DAR ruling yesterday in their favor.
He said there are 55 families waiting to be installed but they are aware that this could take sometime with legal maneuvers expected from the Capitol.
Tabura said they are continuing to ask the governor to let them till 12 to 15 hectares near the river in the questioned property so they will have a source of income.
They are also asking that the military and police be pulled out from the property to prevent their being harassed, he added.*CPG
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