MANILA, Philippines -- Militant peasant and fisherfolk organizations are urging the Supreme Court to do something about the non-implementation of a 20-year-old decision ordering the environment department to distribute 2,000 hectares of land to farmers in Calatagan, Batangas.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, Unyon ng Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), and three farm workers groups from Batangas say that despite the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program?s coverage of the property once owned by the Zobel de Ayala family, the farmers have remained landless.
About 50 farmers, and farm and fishpond workers belonging to the KMP and Pamalakaya chapters, namely the Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawang Bukid, Samahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Batangas (Sambat), and Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anakdagat (Habagat) have been on a stakeout at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City since April 30 to protest the non-enforcement of the high court?s order dated March 25, 1988.
?This (non-implementation) is a glaring example of injustice and how inutile the CARP is,? UMA chair Rene Galang told reporters.
Habagat chair Isabelo Alicaya said he sent a letter to Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Friday saying the Court ?must enforce its decision and hold accountable private and public parties involved and responsible for this perpetual denial of justice.?
The DENR was tasked by the Supreme Court in 1988 to resurvey the land in preparation for its distribution to the claimants and coverage under CARP.
The protesters said the last time they heard about any survey being undertaken was in 1999, under then Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles. The results of the survey, if such really took place, were not officially published.
?After two decades, the DENR is still mum on the issue which makes it harder for the lives of the farm workers being slapped with cases of forcible entry. Our call is for our land to be immediately returned to us,? said Sambat spokesperson Gigi Bautista.
?It is very ironic that this atrocity happened in all the 20 years of the CARP and now [the government] is planning to extend this fake program. One thing is clear: If the CARP is extended then the Calatagan farmers fight for their land will be a very difficult uphill battle?It is with CARP that landlords were able to control the land for so long,? said KMP auditor Antonio Flores.
The protesters have also called for the scrapping of CARP and its replacement with a Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill that is pending in the House of Representatives. The bill provides, among others, for the automatic expropriation of all big private and public agricultural lands for redistribution to farmers.
The Calatagan farmers and fisherfolk tried to picket the Supreme Court building in Manila on Friday but were dispersed by police.
They were the second group of Calatagan farmers who have journeyed to Manila to follow up their agrarian reform-related cases. At least 60 farmers marched from two barangays (villages) in Calatagan and proceeded to the DENR and the Department of Agrarian Reform to protest a government decision reclassifying their farms into a mining area.
The disputed 2,000 hectares, which covers 19 coastal barangays in Calatagan, was a part of the Zobels? 12,000-hectare estate that was formerly a sugarcane plantation. It was later exempted from CARP when the Zobels shifted its use to livestock-raising.
According to Supreme Court records, the case originated in 1948, when the Zobels converted a pier used by vessels loading sugar into a fishpond that encroached into Pagaspas Bay. The expansion into nearby shores and coastal waters continued in the next decades.
The case was finally settled in 1988 when the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., ordered the reversion into public domain all the fishponds, territorial bay waters, rivers, and beaches that were not originally part of the Zobel estate.