Farmers reinstalled in Lapanday land
TAGUM CITY—Corazon Bago, 63, shrieked with glee as men with sledgehammers smashed the concrete walls of the San Isidro (Sanid) farm here on Thursday, part of the 145-hectare banana plantation that was being reclaimed by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (Marbai).
“Finally, we’ve reclaimed our land!” Bago said as her fellow ARBs and thousands of supporters poured into the farm led by Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano before noon.
Thursday’s reinstallation—the third this year—capped nearly seven years of struggle for over a hundred beneficiaries and their families to retake a portion of the sprawling banana plantation also claimed by
the Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC).
Last year, at least a dozen farmers were wounded, after the guards fired on them as they tried to enter the area.
But on Thursday, over 200 fully armed policemen from the Davao del Norte Public Safety Company, the Tagum City police office and other units moved in ahead of the farmers as Adelaido Caminade, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Southern Mindanao sheriff, gave the all-clear signal.
Mariano then led the farmers in entering the farm as the policemen took positions around the plantation in Barangay Madaum here.
A truck had to be used to pull away parts of the farm gates, and the farmers and their supporters, streamed into the compound. It looked like a military garrison with barbed wires strung on its gate.
Bamboo spikes also stuck out from the sides of the trail leading to the plantation’s chapel and canteen, about a kilometer away from the main gate.
Before the reinstallation, Caminade and representatives of the DAR national and provincial offices, as well as Senior Supt. Marcial Magistrado, the Davao del Norte police chief, met with LFC representatives and conducted clearing operations inside the farm.
“We asked their counsels to order their blue guards to move further to their area, that’s why we gained entry. The guards were ordered to vacate further so as not to cause any incident as the farmers enter,” Caminade said.
LFC has always maintained that the reinstallation of the Marbai farmers was illegal.
The company was mum on Thursday, but in April it said that the DAR “has no business to interfere in the case” involving the compromise agreement entered into by the Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (Hearbco-1) and LFC.
Marbai is a breakaway group of Hearbco-1 and did not recognize that agreement.
The banana company, owned by the family of former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., took to the courts to prevent Marbai’s takeover.
It even succeeded in excluding the DAR from the dispute, which it said “does not involve an agrarian dispute.”
Last week, President Duterte told Marbai members during a protest in Manila that he would assist them in reclaiming their lands.
Antonio Tuyak, Marbai spokesperson, said he was confident they would no longer be evicted this time.
“This is it. We will not let this land be taken from us again,” Tuyak said, raising his clinched left fist as farmers across the national road fronting the farm gate cheered.
The end of what could be the longest and most bitter struggle for land in Davao del Norte was smooth, save for a minor commotion between the farmers and their supporters as several leaders gave conflicting commands before the break in.
Caminade said that based on what was agreed upon by all sides during a meeting on Wednesday, only 108 hectares were to be reclaimed.
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