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News - January 2009

An Open Letter from the Banasi Farmers

Date Posted: Jan 2, 2009 at 07:00:24 AM

(Editor's Note: A group of farmers who are fighting for their right to their farmlands came to Adamson University last December 9, 2008 through the coordination of the Office of Students Affairs (OSA). OSA director Atty. Julius Babista welcomed the group and delivered a brief talk during the occasion. Determined with their cause, the farmers were allowed to visit some ongoing classes to familiarize the students with the quandary they were in. Below is a reprint from a leaflet they distributed to the community.)


Dear Ms. President,


We are a group of farmers from Sitio Banasi, in the Municipality of Bula, Camarines Sur. Ours is the same story as the Sumilao and the Calatagan farmers. Just like them, we were born and raised in the sleepy village, planting palay, corn, vegetables, and sugarcane.


As tenants since 1927, we were aware that the farm we had come to call our own belonged to the Fajardo family. However, as we were also identified as qualified beneficiaries of PD 27, we were given entitlements over the land when we were awarded with Certificates of Land Transfer under Marcos's agrarian reform program.


It was a short-lived taste of joy, though with the same government, which awarded the lands to us, took back the entitlements it had given and returned the land to the erstwhile landowner. In one swoop, Minister Conrado Estrella of the Agrarian Reform Ministry cancelled our Certificates of Land Transfer.


Our status as qualified beneficiaries of any agrarian reform program is irrefutable. This was re-affirmed when we were again included for coverage by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Thus, in 1998, the DAR awarded us new entitlements (Certificates of Land Ownership Award) over 123 hectares of the same estate.


What could have been our promises of a better future took a twist on April 16, 2008, when the Office of the President ordered DAR to cancel our Certificate of Land Ownership Award on the ground that the land, allegedly, were livestock/pasture areas as claimed contrary to the DAR-LBP Field Investigation Report and even in contrast with the most recent DAR Administrative Order on Pasture land.


Recently, we received a notice from the Court Sheriff ordering us to vacate our land. This has given us sleepless nights and tremendous uncertainties because we are just too poor to leave our homes. Are we bound to lose the endowment that we have nurtured and the lands that have nourished our children? How can our children continue with their studies? Where are we heading? How are we going to survive this ordeal?


Like in the Sumilao and Calatagan cases, we are faced with the same influential and powerful clan. They have armed guards and lawyers at their disposal, we only have our fortitude. Incidentally, Atty. Manuel Gaite, who is Undersecretary at the Office of the President responsible for the April 16, 2008 OP decision, is a cousin-in-law of the former landowner's daughter.


Inspired by the victory of the Sumilao farmers and stirred by the determination of the Calatagan farmers, we have decided to take similar course, to the streets where we hope to find justice. Forty five of us from three generations, aged 17 to 82, 12 women and 33 men, braved all trials and uncertainties in a highly disciplined and organized manner since November 17, 2008 in order to reach out and seek your intervention to reverse Secretary Eduardo Ermita's April 16, 2008 decision.


In this quest for justice, we have sent case documents to your office including a Memorandum from DAR-Bicol Director. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Chair of CBCP's NASSA, also sent an unsolicited letter advising you to decide favorably on our case.


We certainly are aware that seeking an audience with you is fraught with difficulties and uncertainties. But we are determined to overcome all these obstacles because ours is a just fight to seek justice.


It is therefore, in this light and in the spirit of justice, that we reiterate our demand for the reversal of your Executive Secretary's April 16 Decision.


We also ask that you lead your party to immediately enact the CARP extension with reform bill because only through this amendatory legislation could we be assured of protection over the lands awarded to us under the CARP. Moreover, this will enable DAR to pursue resolution of cases such as those of Sumilao, Calatagan and the rest of the landless tillers who are laying claims on DAR's backlog of 1.9 million hectares in Land Acquisition and Distribution.


Very respectfully yours,


Banasi Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association


(BARFBA)- Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)