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Peasant groups see hope in new DAR head

LUCENA CITY—A national farmers’ group sees hope in the pending appointment of Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano as agrarian reform secretary, saying putting a farmer at the helm of the Department of Agrarian Reform would pave the way for radical policy changes that would benefit farmers.

“With Ka Paeng as the first farmer to head the DAR, we expect radical policy changes to genuinely benefit farmers,” said Jansepth Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan).

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Geronimo urged Mariano, chair of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), to free farmers from slavery to the “whims and caprice” and “legal maneuvers” of landlords.

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“Ending the tyranny of big landowners, like the Aquino-Cojuangco [family] of Hacienda Luisita, will be a solid first blow. It will surely bring a chilling effect to others that [and show that] change is really coming,” Geronimo said.

He also urged Mariano to purge DAR of corrupt officials and personnel.

“Most often, they serve the interest of landowners, in exchange for material and monetary gains, instead of siding with poor [farmers],” he said.

Maribel Luzara, president of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP), appealed to Mariano to look at the plight of farmers in Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula area.

“With him at the DAR’s top post, we now see light at the end of a long and dark tunnel in our struggle to own a piece of land that we’ve been tilling for generations,” Luzara said.

The Bondoc Peninsula continues to be one of the hotbeds of agrarian conflict in Southern Tagalog, with big landholdings controlled by a few families, mainly in the towns of San Francisco, San Andres, San Narciso and Buenavista.

Agrarian conflict has claimed the lives of six farmer-leaders in Bondoc Peninula over the years. Close to 400 criminal cases, mostly for stealing coconuts, had been filed against more than 300 tenants by owners of estates placed under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), KMBP records showed.

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Legal battle

The KMBP is fighting a legal battle in the 1,715-hectare Hacienda Matias in San Francisco town to compel the DAR to fully enforce land reform. Land titles in the estate are no longer in the name of the landowners and have been registered in the name of the government but the landowners and their overseers continue to exercise control over the vast estate.

Romeo Clavo, president of the Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Gitnang Quezon (Ugnayan), a group based in Sariaya town, asked Mariano to stop the revocation of the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) in farms already awarded by the government.

He said at least 2,000 families of farmer-beneficiaries would be displaced if the cancellation of CLOAs in Sariaya continued.

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TAGS: Agriculture, DAR, Department of Agrarian Reform, Farm, farmer, Rafael "Ka Paeng" Mariano, Rafael Mariano
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