DUMAGUETE CITY, May 29 (PNA) — The Department of Agrarian Reform has finally reached a new agreement that has seen farmer-beneficiaries to the much-contested Teves’ landholdings, which was covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in southern Negros Oriental, re-installed and additional ones added.
The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between major players, the installation and re-installation of the FB’s of the CARP-covered Teves estate in Caranoche, Sta. Catalina town and Villareal in Bayawan City last Friday, are seen as last-ditch efforts to put closure to the contentious case, said Stephen Leonidas, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) of Negros Oriental.
On Friday, two groups of FBs — comprising 29 belonging to the original VILLACARFA (Villareal-Caranoche Agrarian Reform Farmers’ Association) and 38 new ones of the Omoyon-Padilla group that were initially included in the exclusion-inclusion proceedings — were re-installed and installed during simple ceremonies at the Negros Oriental State University-Bayawan campus.
A compromise agreement was also signed during the activity, which, according to Leonidas, was an offshoot of negotiations between parties involved after President Benigno Simeon Aquino III last year ordered the DAR to resolve the matter collectively to prevent “large-scale violence” if the case was not properly adjudicated.
To recall, Task Force Mapalad member Arnaldo Hoyohoy, whose father is a VILLACARFA beneficiary, and lawyer Eliezer Casipong, assigned to the provincial DAR office, were killed in separate incidents after DAR Region-7 and provincial officials installed the VILLACARFA beneficiaries sometime in November 2008. Many believed the killings were linked to the controversial Teves landholdings dispute.
On March 12, 2009, then DAR Sec. Nasser Pangandaman ordered the disqualification of 19 VILLACARFA FB’s, the case of which was appealed at the Office of the President and which President Aquino remanded on November 10, 2010. The President’s order, signed by Assistant Executive Secretary Ronaldo A. Geron, noted that “while the Constitution gives the President the power of control over executive departments, bureaus and offices, after thorough review of the case, the Office of the President deems it proper that the case be remanded to the DAR secretary”.
The landowners had pushed for the inclusion of their employees that they insisted were the rightful beneficiaries to the CARP-covered estate, having tilled the lands for so many years. At the same time, the Teves family also questioned the land valuation offered by DAR which they said was at a very low price.
More negotiations were held later, the latest of which was between DAR Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) Assistant Sec. Arnold Arrieta, the landowners, the FBs and other stakeholders, that finally resulted in Friday’s MOA signing and installation/re-installation activity, said PARO Leonidas.
Present during the activity were 3rd district Rep. Henry Pryde Teves, a scion of the Teves clan that owned the CARP-covered estate; DAR Region 7 Director Rodolfo Ynson; Director Lilibeth Lee, chief of staff of USEC Nieto, who missed attending the activity after his flight from Manila was cancelled; Bayawan Mayor Rene Gaudiel, Jojie Napigkit, representing Sta. Catalina Mayor Leon Lopez, Philippine National Police provincial director Sr. Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, the farmer-beneficiaries and the village chiefs of Caranoche and Villareal, and representatives of Task Force Mapalad, said Leonidas.
Task Force Mapalad, a federation working for agrarian reform and rural development, had been rallying behind VILLACARFA over the last few years since the controversial installation of the farmer-beneficiaries took place.
Only five of the total FBs were not around for the re-installation/installation, to include the one that was killed in 2008, another who had already moved to Mindanao, and still, others, who got stranded elsewhere due to bad weather, Leonidas added.
Meanwhile, the highlight of the agreement is the subdivision of the Caranoche and Villareal land areas acquired through CARP and the subsequent distribution to the beneficiaries.
The Caranoche property covers 33.2730 hectares while the Villareal land area comprises 28.7557 hectares or a total of 62.0287 hectares, said Leonidas.
Under the new agreement, 30 hectares of the Caranoche property shall be awarded to the new FBs comprising Omoyon-Padilla group, while the remainder of 3.2730 hectares of the Caranoche land shall be added on to the Villareal asset, totaling 32.0287 hectares, and will go to the VILLACAFA FB’s, explained Leonidas.
A survey team has already been dispatched to delineate the boundaries of the awarded lands, with the understanding that only structures made of light materials shall be taken down while permanent structures will remain as is, Leonidas added. (PNA) JFP