Land reform descends on estate Arroyos deny owning
ISABELA, Negros Occidental—Consuelo Salva, 63, wept as she was installed as an owner of Hacienda Bacan here with 67 other farmer beneficiaries on Tuesday after a 10-year struggle to own the land.
Salva, a mother of seven, said she cried because while they have finally won their battle, her husband Rogelio Salva, 60, couldn’t be around to celebrate with them.
Rogelio died in December in a hunger strike at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Quezon City by farmers demanding they be installed in Hacienda Bacan.
Hacienda Bacan covers 157.2 hectares with 148.2 hectares subjected to Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp). Dividing this would entitle each beneficiary to 2.9 hectares.
Of 68 beneficiaries, 43 are members of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association, and 25 belong to Task Force Mapalad (TFM).
The recipients of the land on Tuesday said they believed the property was owned by former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and his brother Rep. Ignacio Arroyo (Neg. Occ., 5th District).
Revenue district records of Oct. 3, 2001 showed Jose Miguel Arroyo to be owner of the land.
Representative Arroyo, however, said the land is neither his nor his brother’s, but that of Rivulet Agro Industrial Corp.
At a press conference here with his lawyer Ruy Rondain following the installation, Representative Arroyo said the former First Gentleman paid the capital gains tax for him while he was abroad.
It didn’t mean, though, that Jose Miguel owned the land, said the congressman.
The Supreme Court issued on Dec. 15, 2010 a temporary restraining order that directed the Land Registration Authority and the Register of Deeds to refrain from transferring the ownership of Hacienda Bacan to the Republic of the Philippines.
The order also stopped government from issuing certificates of land ownership award (Cloa) pending trial on the merits of the injunction case filed by Rivulet to stop the transfer of the ownership of Bacan from Rivulet to the government and eventually to farmers.
In his memorandum dated June 8 ordering the installation of Hacienda Bacan beneficiaries, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Anthony Parungao said the DAR believed the TRO issued by the Supreme Court does not apply to the installation of Cloa holders in Hacienda Bacan.
Parungao added that the Solicitor General’s Office has already issued an opinion that there was no legal impediment to proceeding with the installation of the farmers in Hacienda Bacan.
TFM spokesperson Lani Factor said the TRO was moot and academic as the new title and Cloas were completed in October last year.
When DAR personnel, led by Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Felix Servidad, arrived in Hacienda Bacan on Tuesday, the road going to the farm was blocked by a tractor, and farm administrator Helen Gradiola asked the farmers not to take over until Representative Arroyo and Rondain arrived.
DAR personnel, however, went ahead with the installation that was met by applause and cheers from the farmers. They claimed to have received their orders from their superiors in Manila.
Rondain said his client would take legal action against the DAR personnel who installed the farmers, accusing them of violating the TRO that also applied to the installation.
He said the installation was invalid, and he would ask the Supreme Court to cite the DAR personnel concerned in contempt.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.