LUCENA CITY—The pain of losing the piece of land that had already been awarded by the government was too much to bear for an agrarian reform beneficiary in nearby Sariaya town.
Romeo Clavo, head of Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Gitnang Quezon (Ugnayan), said farmer Julianita Austria, 68, from Barangay (village) Sampaloc II, died last Aug. 14 after signing a motion for reconsideration to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.’s decision that stripped her of land ownership.
“She died from too much depression. Losing her land was really painful for her,” Clavo said in an interview here during the antipork barrel assembly on Monday.
According to Clavo, Austria received a copy last month of Ochoa’s decision that rejected her appeal and five other holders of certificates of land ownership award (Cloas) from her village to retain the agricultural classification of the 10-hectare land that was awarded to them under the government’s agrarian reform program.
Austria’s Cloa covered 2,922 square meters.
“After she received Ochoa’s decision, her health deteriorated fast. Malacañang’s verdict was too hard on her. The land was her only worldly possession,” Clavo said.
He said two days after Austria signed the motion for reconsideration, she died in her sleep.
At the antipork barrel protest assembly here, Sariaya farmer Isabelita Javier brought along her 3-year-old granddaughter Ryza Mae.
Javier said they joined the protest to assail the continuing threat against their Cloas.
“If the piece of land, which the government had already given to us, will be forcibly taken away, what is at stake here is the future of my granddaughter,” Javier said.
Clavo said 255 members of Ugnayan, who are also Cloa holders and have similar cases pending in Malacañang, vowed to oppose the government decision to strip them of their land.
“We appeal to President Aquino, stop the pain of more agrarian reform beneficiaries. Stop this wholesale bigay-bawi (give and retake) of our Cloas,” Clavo said.
On May 28, Ochoa concurred with a previous ruling by the Department of Agrarian Reform to return Austria’s land and those of five others to a private individual based on an old municipal zoning ordinance in 1982, saying the land was classified as industrial and exempt from Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
But Sariaya Cloa holders argued that in June 2008, the municipal and provincial agrarian reform offices declared the 1982 land-use plan as void. The municipal government also dismissed the document as legally defective because the properties in question had long been used for agricultural purposes.
Jansepth Geronimo, coordinator of Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services, urged Quezon provincial board members to initiate the review of all municipal zoning plans to prevent landowners from sabotaging the CARP.
“It is likely that pre-CARP zoning ordinances in other municipalities also exist and will most likely constrict and reverse agrarian reform gains as a whole,” Geronimo said.
He added: “Quezon officials should immediately act to stop this Cloa bigay-bawi madness.”