LUCENA CITY—It was a fiesta, Christmas and New Year rolled into one in several villages of the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province on Wednesday after the farmers there received their certificates of land ownership under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
“There was pansit (rice noodles) in every house of farmer-beneficiaries. There was also some drinking and videoke singing. There were pockets of fiesta celebrations in the whole Bondoc Peninsula. It was Christmas and New Year again,” said Jansept Geronimo of the nongovernment organization Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization.
The beneficiaries of 480 hectares of the Villa Reyes hacienda in San Narciso and San Andres towns that were distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will hold a grand celebration on Feb. 14, according to the campaign officer of the association, which helped the farmers own the land they till.
“Valentine’s Day is a fitting date for celebration. It is one lovely day for the families of farmer-beneficiaries,” Geronimo said over the phone Thursday.
He said the villagers would share chicken dishes, fresh vegetables and other home-cooked native delicacies on Valentine’s Day. “If there is a pig in the village, which is suited for lechon, the gracious owner may share it to enliven the celebration,” Geronimo added.
But for militant groups, the beneficiaries have nothing to celebrate. They said the land distribution was just a “grand publicity stunt for the fake CARP.”
“The CLOA (certificate of land ownership award) is a mere scrap of paper. It only means that from now on, the so-called farmer-beneficiaries will have to pay the government for 30 years without any assurance that they will own the land,” Randall Echanis, deputy secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas, said in a statement.
Echanis cited cases involving hundreds of thousands of hectares distributed to farmers who received CLOAs and paid for the land they got. He said the CLOAs were later canceled and the lands were confiscated by the government.
Echanis mentioned, among others, Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, and Araneta Lands in Tungkong Mangga, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.
Citing figures from Ibon Foundation, Echanis said that in 2004, more than 2,000 emancipation patents and CLOAs, covering 380,000 hectares of land, were canceled.
“Obviously, the CLOA distribution in Hacienda Reyes is a last-ditch effort by the Aquino administration to revive the dying land reform program and deceive the Filipino peasantry,” Echanis said.
He also believed that “what happened in Quezon [was] a preview, a test run of what will happen in Hacienda Luisita in May,” referring to the DAR’s target to “distribute” Hacienda Luisita, a sprawling sugar estate owned by the maternal family of President Aquino.
On Wednesday, some 5,000 farmers from different towns in the Bondoc Peninsula gathered in Mulanay for the distribution of CLOAs to tenants of Hacienda Reyes.
The DAR distributed CLOAs for 480 hectares to farmer beneficiaries of Villa Reyes, the vast farm owned by the scions of the late Don Domingo Reyes that spans San Narciso, Buenavista and San Andres towns.
Another distribution of 120 hectares is scheduled in March and 524 hectares in June.
The distribution of the CLOAs was led by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and witnessed by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chairman Joel Rocamora.
Geronimo said aside from Villa Reyes, the DAR land distribution program would include the undistributed lands from other contentious haciendas in the Bondoc Peninsula owned by the Matias, Uy, Zoleta, Tan and other landed families.
“This land distribution is only a partial victory. There are large tracts of ‘Carpable’ lands that are still in the hands of big landowners,” Geronimo said.
De los Reyes on Wednesday said the distribution of land in the Bondoc Peninsula was only the beginning. He said the government was determined to end the agrarian disputes in the region.