Farmers plead for return of CARP lands
TACLOBAN CITY—Farmers from a remote town in Northern Samar province are pleading for the restoration of land titles given to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but which were canceled allegedly upon the intervention of a then legislator whose family owned the parcel of land placed under CARP.
The farmers, from San Antonio town, Northern Samar, appealed to Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano for the return of their certificate of land ownership awards (Cloas), which serve as proof of land transfer under CARP.
The farmers, through spokesperson Lerme Torrejos, said the land is their only source of income before these were taken from them.
Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza issued the Cloas in 2001, but one of his successors, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, revoked these in 2006.
Torrejos said the farmers were stripped of their Cloas after Harlin Abayon, then congressman of Northern Samar, intervened to have the land exempted from CARP.
Abayon told the Inquirer that there was legal basis to exempt the land from CARP because a municipal ordinance declaring San Antonio town as an ecotourism zone, which exempts it from CARP, preceded the law that mandated CARP in 1988.
He also pointed to a legal opinion issued by the Department of Justice in 1990 that says all lands already classified as industrial, commercial or residential before June 15, 1988, the date CARP law took effect, are exempted from land reform.
The former congressman said while he respects Mariano’s order to inventory all lands that had been spared from CARP for the purpose of placing them under land reform, he believed Mariano is aware of the law.
“I don’t think the secretary will commit something illegal,” said Abayon.
According to documents submitted to the Department of Agrarian Reform, Abayon insisted that the land, being tilled by 23 farmers, should not be covered by CARP because the owners (Abayon’s family) were not informed and farmers had failed to pay monthly amortization for the land for two years.
The contested land is a 73.5-hectare coconut area in Barangay Ward I in San Antonio that had been reclassified as nonagricultural and part of an ecotourism zone in 1988.
Torrejos, the farmers’ spokesperson, has been forced to find a job as a “habal-habal” (motorcycle-for-hire) driver that earns him an average of P200 per day which is barely enough for the needs of his four children.
The farmers said they are banking on a statement made by Mariano promising to do an inventory of the government’s land distribution program to check if CARP had been implemented properly.
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