Farmers from three haciendas formerly owned by publicly listed Roxas and Company Inc. (RCI) in Nasugbu, Batangas rejected a Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) order that may potentially cause their eviction from their CARP-awarded lands.
The Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Hacienda Roxas Inc. (KAMAHARI) represented by its president, Carlito Caisip, and Damayan ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Roxas-National Federation of Sugar Workers (DAMBA-NFSW), represented by Lauro Martin, filed an Omnibus Motion with Motion for Reconsideration of the Consolidated Order of DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III dated December 29, 2023.
The order, released only in January, directed the Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) of Nasugbu to consolidate the six certificates of titles for Hacienda Caylaway, Hacienda Palico, and Banilad, the cancellation of previously issued Certificate of Land Ownership and Award (CLOA) and redistribution of 1,322 hectares, representing half of the aggregate land for distribution.
Some 50,000 farmers, who are mostly holders of CLOA from the three disputed haciendas, stand to be affected by the order.
The order subsequently allowed RCI to keep the other half covering a total of 1,322 hectares.
The motion for reconsideration filed by lawyer Mario Bernardo S. Cerro, in behalf of the farmers, cited as grounds for reconsideration the fact that all agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) in Barangay Aga covered by Hacienda Caylaway never consented to the voluntary withdrawal of all pending cases that paved the way for the consolidated order.
“With all due respect, respondents were misrepresented by their former counsel in agreeing to the voluntary submission for the consolidated order,” the motion for reconsideration stated.
According to Cerro, the DAR chief also committed grave abuse of discretion in evading the positive duty directed by Supreme Court in G.R. No. 127876 and the consolidated order brushed aside final and executory judgments in the same case and the consolidated cases in G.R. Nos. 149598, 167505, 167540, 167543, 167845, and 179650.
In question is the 63-page consolidated order dated December 29, 2023 handed down by DAR in January this year.
In rendering the decision, the DAR chief said decades of judicial hostilities that have been alternately instigated and endured by the principal parties—the landowner on one hand and the ARBs on the other—are now to see closure.
“Their clamor has been heeded, elusive justice now finally achieved and secured. The time, resources, energies, and efforts spent in unceasing argumentation [can] now to come to a halt and justice dispensed equitably,” the order stated.
“The waiting time, fraught with anxiety, frustration, and desperation that often led to the dissipation of faith in the government in its ability to render justice, is now to be a thing of the past—overturned and overtaken by the present thrust towards quick agrarian justice delivery,” it added.
On a positive note, the order stated that qualified ARBs are rendered free of payment of any amortization under the New Agrarian Emancipation Act of 2023. Subsequently, Estrella also ordered the PARPO II of Nasugbu to issue a Certificate of Condonation with Release of Mortgage to each ARB to clear their names of debt.
“The ARBs are hereby ordered to vacate the areas outside the ½ portion awarded to them and are enjoined to peacefully turn over the physical possession to Roxas and Company Inc.,” the order stated. Likewise, RCI is ordered to vacate the portion outside their ½ share and to turn over the physical possession to the ARBs.
Estrella also ordered the convening of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council-Executive Committee (PARC-Execom) for the earmarking of appropriate just compensation for RCI for half of the portion to be distributed to the qualified ARBs.
The order cited jurisdictional basis to finally end the agonizing litigation struggles that have spanned almost four decades, including a myriad of complex cases tirelessly thrown back and forth between the Supreme Court and the DAR.
However, the farmers argued that their former counsel committed fraud and deception, and misled them, adding their former lawyer never consulted them about his plan to withdraw all cases and submit to the jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary. The farmers, believing they were betrayed, are mulling over to go after their former legal counsel.