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LAND CLASSIFICATION ISSUE

‘Malacañang did what was right’

05:17 AM February 25, 2019

HERMOSA, Bataan — After decades of legal battles to acquire and convert the controversial lands at Barangay Sumalo here, farmers can now heave a sigh of relief after the Office of the President junked a landowner’s petition to develop the land.

Villagers, mostly farmers, faced eviction in a case at a local court filed by Riverforest Development Corp., through which owners of the land sought to develop the 200-hectare property.

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In the 17-page decision signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, it said that the Supreme Court has emphasized that Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law “is a bastion of social justice of poor landless farmers.”

Medialdea said such law was “designed to redistribute to the underprivileged the natural right to toil the earth.”

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Bought for P11,000

The Malacañang decision was released on Jan. 15 but only made public recently.

The Littons reportedly bought the land in 1979 for only P11,000.

In the 1990s, the Littons sought to reclassify the land as industrial, citing the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992.

The reclassification bid was initially denied by former Agrarian Reform Secretary Ernesto Garilao but was approved by the Office of the President at that time.

The DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) eventually revoked the land conversion after it was opposed in a petition by farmers and local officials.

The farmers got backing from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which lauded the municipal council’s earlier move to revoke the industrial classification of the land.

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Church support

Bishop Ruperto Santos, of the Diocese of Balanga, on Sunday described the Malacañang decision as a “triumph for the farmers.”

“Truth prevails,” Santos said. “Justice is served,” Santos added.

“Malacañang did what was right,” said Jonie Capalaran, head of the local farmers’ group Sulong Magsasaka Association of Bataan.

Representatives of the Littons were not immediately available for comment.

But recently, Mr. Duterte expressed frustration over the sluggish land use conversion process, blaming bureaucratic red tape.

In his previous speeches, the President warned he would fire DAR officials over a land conversion application that has been delayed for years.

Mr. Duterte said he found it unacceptable for the agency to take two years to process the conversion of agricultural land to commercial use, saying there was probably corruption involved. —GREG REFRACCION

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TAGS: Barangay Sumalo land dispute, land dispute, Land Reform, Salvador Medialdea
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