DAR chief dismisses Lapanday’s graft raps as ‘harassment’
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has described as harassment the graft complaint filed by Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) against the agency’s top officials in relation to the DAR’s efforts to install evicted farmers in a disputed banana plantation in the San Isidro area (Sanid) in Tagum, Davao del Norte, which was otherwise managed by LFC.
“The suit is a move by LFC to harass officials of the DAR who are merely implementing the agrarian reform law and ensuring that the farmer-beneficiaries are in possession of the lands that are legally theirs,” Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said in a statement on Monday, three days after LFC filed the complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City.
On the same day the DAR installed in the Sanid plantation the 158 farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (Marbai), LFC filed the complaint against Mariano and his Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Pañgulayan, accusing the officials of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and of grave misconduct or grave abuse of authority for DAR orders and court interventions “favoring” Marbai in the dispute.
The Marbai farmers had been trying to regain control of the farm since 2015.
Last December, Mariano had issued a cease and desist order against Lapanday from evicting Marbai, as well as a writ of installation in April, while Pañgulayan had intervened in a case at the Davao Regional Trial Court to assert DAR’s jurisdiction over the dispute.
LFC alleges in its Ombudsman complaint that these actions emboldened Marbai members to cause “destruction” and “violence” in the plantation in the group’s attempts to reclaim it, causing at least P55 million in losses for LFC.
Being certificates of land ownership award holders as awarded by DAR in 1996, the land is actually owned and registered under Marbai’s mother cooperative, Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1.
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