DESPITE the strong protest being put up by farmers from three disputed haciendas in Nasugbu, Batangas, an official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) maintained that the resolution of a four decades-long land dispute between the farmers and Roxas and Co. Inc. is a win for farmers.
DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Napoleon U. Galit said the Supreme Court, under GR 12876 dated December 17, 1999, decided in favor of the landowner and ruled that the Notice of Coverage issued by DAR was illegal.
Hence, the decision subsequently rendered invalid the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) issued by the agency to the farmers’ groups.
Galit issued the clarification in light of continuing reports that the farmers’ groups were on the losing end of the decision rendered by DAR Secretary Conrado M. Estrella III in his consolidated order dated December 29, 2023. The order became final and executory on January 30, 2024, after the period for the filing of a motion for reconsideration or appeal against the consolidated order expired.
The 63-page consolidated order mandated the Nasugbu Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer to consolidate the six titles covering the three haciendas, cancel all previously issued CLOAs, and redistribute 1,322 hectares, or half of the total land area, to qualified farmer-beneficiaries. At the same time, RCI, a publicly-listed company, gets to keep the other 1,322 hectares.
Galit reiterated that the compromise agreement was reached by mutual consensus between both parties, which agreed to withdraw all pending appeals and cases filed before the Office of the President and the SC and yield to the DAR’s jurisdiction and exclusive authority to facilitate a decision for expediency in the resolution of the dispute. However, in their motion for reconsideration, which the farmers insist was filed within the regulatory period, they said their former counsel committed fraud and deception, and misled them into agreeing to the voluntary submission for the consolidated order.
The farmers maintained they never consented to the voluntary withdrawal of all pending cases pertinent to the disputed CARP-covered lands.
The withdrawal of all pending appeals and cases and yielding to the DAR’s jurisdiction, Galit said, led to the consolidation of the transfer certificates of title covering Haciendas Palico, Banilad and Caylaway, all located in Nasugbu, Batangas, into one derivative title, under the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The total of 2,644.45 hectares of land, will be divided equally between the farmers groups and RCI.
He said the DAR will process the distribution of the parcels of land to the individual members of the farmers’ groups, taking into account all the necessary operational aspects and proceedings involving identification, technical description approval, and issuance of individual CLOAs to the farmers.
Galit emphasized that the DAR’s focus on the resolution of long-standing agrarian cases, is in line with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., to uphold the delivery of social justice to the farmers, while guaranteeing the right to equal protection under the law, for all the concerned parties.
Fear of being evicted from their CARP-awarded lands as CLOA holders are now gripping the farmers because part of the consolidated order is for the farmers to vacate the land that RCI will be able to keep or retain.
Around 50,000 farmers reportedly stand to be affected by the order, which will also subject the farmers to the tedious process of CARP again.