Farmers Fight for Their Right to Land

As partner of Rights Network, ICCO was asked to attend in their activity related to land rights for Yolanda survivors in the Philipines. The activity was the scheduled dialogue held last February 17 in the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office of Barugo Leyte regarding the land rights claim of the farmers particularly about the release of their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA).

Farmers Fight for Their Right to Land

The dialogue is between the Barugo farmers and the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO). A total of 44 farmers and  barangay leaders were in attendance. But despite the communication letter that was personally handed to the MARO by the barangay chairman by the name of  Mario Panis of Brgy. Bulod, the MARO office,represented by Mrs. Priscila Cinco failed to show up and made excuses.  As a result, the farmers were disappointed and padlocked the DAR Municipal Office as a symbol of their frustration. Meanwhile, the leaders of Rights Network and Katarungan helped them in communicating the situation to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer and demand for the MARO to face the farmers; and PARO assured them that MARO will come and face them. 

The barangay leaders brought to the mayor the incident, then after a few hours, the Mayor of Barugo, Mayor Alden Avestruz with his wife visited the office to show concern about the issues of the farmers. Finally, after more than 4 hours of waiting, heeding to the call of PARO, the MARO showed up along with their lawyer to discuss the issues and made an appeal to the farmer leaders to forgive her of her failure to show up, but the farmers were still not consoled ; because they felt an unjust treatment.The government officials are quick to respond at the landlords’ request for a meeting. When it comes to the farmers’ request for a dialoque, it often ends with either a postponement or a “no show”.  However, to temporarily settle the issue, both camps decided to reset the schedule to February 22,2016 , monday.

The mayor requested the barangay leaders and farmers to unlock the office since schedule is already reset. In respect to the mayor, the barangay leaders complied with the request of the mayor; but according to them if the government will fail to show up again for a dialoque; the fight for right will continue. They will never give up and will stand hopeful no matter what.

In an interview with one of the farmers, Mrs. Anacleta Adrales, 76 years old, whose family has been working as tenant for 60 years was in the group to fight for her 1.5 hectares. The document she holds for more than 30 years is agricultural leasehold that was awarded to her by former President Marcos in 1983. According to Rights representative, Baby Reyes ,the said document is not a title but only a guarantee that they cannot be ejected from the farm. Should the landowner sell it she will have the right to either buy it or receive a disturbance fee from the land owner if she opt not to buy the land.  The government  has a program for those tenants who want to buy the farm ; unfortunately, monetary help is not mentioned in the program  that would somehow assist the farmers.

As part of the contract, Anacleta needs to pay monthly rental of 12 kabans (sack of rice) whether she has enough or meager harvest. Last October 2015 during their harvest, the farm only produced 38 kabans and she paid 12 kabans to her landowner, Inday Astorga Blancaflor, which was leased to a certain, Milagros Astilla, whom she pays her rental currently. The 26 kaban left is for their sustenance for six months. Each Kaban of rice is worth P260.00 only, therefore if Anacleta has 26 kaban left if multiplied by P260.00 per kaban that will give us a total P6,670.00 as an income for every 6 months an amount that they need to carefully budget for a six months provision. 

Author: Rico Cajife