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Camarines farmers march to Malacañang

By Juan Escandor Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 03:48:00 11/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines – At 4 a.m. Tuesday, the second day of their 21-day or 444-kilometer walk to Malacañang that started Monday in Bula town in Camarines Sur, 51 farmers and their supporters left Naga City to press for a reversal of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita's decision in April that dispossessed them of their land.

Pobleo Clavero, 82, the oldest among the marchers, who has been tilling the land since 1939, said he hoped he could make it to Malacañang because this could be his last exercise of his right to seek justice.

Ermita's decision on April 16 set aside the agrarian reform coverage of 123 hectares of the Fajardo Estate in Sitio Banasi, Barangay Pawili.

The estate is being tilled by 57 farmer-beneficiaries earlier awarded farm lots through Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) titled at the Registry of Deeds of Camarines Sur.

Ermita's order directed the Department of Agrarian Reform to cancel the CLOAs.

The order in effect set aside the DAR orders in 2007 and 1999, which upheld the farmers' right to the land.

Jess Bergantin, president of the Banasi Agrarian Reform Farmer-Beneficiaries Association, said the farmers were left with no option but to do what the Sumilao farmers did, “to ask President Macapagal-Arroyo to reverse the decision and give us back the land awarded to us under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.”

Motion

Lawyer Hazel Lavitoria, legal counsel from the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal, said they have filed a motion for reconsideration and motion to intervene before the Office of the President as the April 16 decision of Ermita was “contrary to both law and jurisprudence.”

Vitoria said the motion they filed has given the farmer-beneficiaries a personality in the case which was originally a case between the landowners and the DAR as it was the municipal agrarian reform officer (Maro) of Bula who issued a notice of coverage of 138 hectares of the Fajardo Estate to landowner-spouses Edilberto and Corazon Fajardo and Augustia Imperial in 1995 and 1996.

She said the landowners did not respond to the notice of coverage the DAR sent so the latter proceeded with the documentation of the land after compliance with due process, which placed the Fajardo Estate under compulsory acquisition through the Land Bank of the Philippines and DAR.

Consequently, the CLOAs were granted to the 57 farmer-beneficiaries.

The Fajardo Estate had been the subject of a legal battle between the farmers and the landowners in the 70s until the 80s.