Lapanday sues Mariano, DAR exec over farmers’ entry in Tagum farm
TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and another senior department official are now facing charges at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the takeover by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of the 145-hectare portion of a banana farm being occupied and operated by the agribusiness firm Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) here.
Charged with violation of Section 3, Paragraph E of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority were Mariano and Undersecretary Luis Pangulayan.
In his complaint dated May 18, lawyer Noel Oliver Punzalan, LFC counsel, accused the two Department of Agrarian Reform officials of allegedly “giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (Marbai) when the department had issued a cease and desist order (CDO) prohibiting LFC from evicting the ARBs who had entered the San Isidro (Sanid) farm in San
Isidro village last Dec. 9, 2016.
The complaint was filed the same day Marbai farmers and their supporters took over the Sanid area by virtue of a “break-open order” issued by Mariano.
Marbai members, meanwhile, said Lapanday guards have built a fence around the 145-hectare farm.
Marbai spokesperson Antonio Tuyac said that when they demanded the guards to leave, the guards would say, “You are not the ones who hired us. Our employers Lapanday ordered us to stay here.”
In his complaint, Punzalan argued the cease and desist order gave a stamp of approval for the ARBs to forcibly take the farm, “encouraged them to continue violating the writs of execution issued by the Regional Trial Court in Davao City, and emboldened the members to chop (down) the bananas of Hearbco-1,” referring to the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative, which LFC has an existing banana growing contract with.
“This (CDO) disregarded the fact that LFC’s possession and management of the Sanid area is by virtue of a prior and final and executory order issued by the RTC of Davao City,” Punzalan said.
The LFC counsel said Undersecretary Pangulayan publicly announced to the Marbai members on Dec. 19, 2016 that they could already harvest the bananas in the Sanid area and sell them to third parties despite knowing that LFC had the exclusive right to manage the farm and to purchase the produce of Hearbco-1 pursuant to a final and executory order of the Davao court.
At least 12 Marbai members and sympathizers were wounded when LFC security guards opened fire to drive them out of the contested area last December 9.
The Lapanday’s complaint also accused Mariano and Pangulayan of siding with Marbai’s “self-serving allegations” when it issued the CDO and appeared personally as a party before the Davao City court to seek the overturn of the alias writ of execution of the contract between LFC and Hearbco-1.
“It bears emphasis that when respondent Secretary Mariano in the Cease and Desist Order stated that his office treated Marbai’s letter as a petition, DAR already assumed the role of a quasi-judicial agency tasked to determine and adjudicate the issues presented to it…including the issue of whether or not it has jurisdiction in the first place…Therefore it was highly irregular for DAR to appear before the RTC of Davao City, take on the cause of Marbai…question the rights of LFC…the jurisdiction of the RTC and insist its own jurisdiction,” Punzalan’s complaint alleged.
The LFC counsel argued the CDO did not apply to the Sanid case since the dispute that led to the RTC-approved compromise agreement between LFC and Hearbco-1 did not constitute any involuntary cancellation of individually registered emancipated patents (EPs), certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) and other titles issued by DAR under the agrarian reform program—which covered the legal basis for issuing a CDO—but has been “a mere breach of the contractual agreement by one of the parties.”
He said Hearbco-1 has been awarded the land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and that a transfer certificate of title has already been issued under its name.
“Respondents clearly used their office and abused their authority to deliberately favor the No Group/Marbai members. Respondents did not even consider that (Marbai) are not the only ARBs in the land awarded to Hearbco-1.
In a statement, LFC maintained its contract with Hearbco-1 continues and that it owns the fruits coming from the Sanid farm despite the re-installation of Marbai members.
“The reentry of former (Hearbco-1) members into the farm does not modify the existing agreement where Hearbco-1 is obligated to deliver and sell the fruits from the whole plantation to Lapanday.
The firm also denounced Mariano and other DAR officials for forcing Thursday’s installation by “coercing the Philippine National Police to assist him to carry out his highly anomalous action.”
“Lapanday also blames Mariano for directly instigating the mob who became violent and unruly as the installation of the breakaway ARBs was proceeding…”
Punzalan, the LFC counsel, said a preventive suspension against the respondents would be necessary pending their investigation.
Lapanday said the dispute has resulted in at least P55 million of losses to the company. SFM
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