I am posting this article, which I received via email, in solidarity with the Sumilao farmers. Who, after ending their two month journey from Bukidnon to Manila on foot, have yet to see a resolution to their struggle.
1) Sumilao farmers are LANDLESS as defined in RA 6657 "One is
considered landless if he/she owns less than 3 hectares of
a. The 66-hectare Carlos Estate was distributed to 78 farmers
belonging to the MAPALAD Multi-Purpose Cooperative who received
between .4 to .9 hectares per family.
i. This means that those who benefited in the Carlos estate ARE
STILL QUALIFIED to become beneficiaries under the agrarian reform program.
ii. The point of the agrarian reform program is to distribute
lands to help landless farmers have sustainable livelihood. This is
why the law provides that a family size farm which is around 3
hectares is necessary to fulfil the program's objective of improving
the lives of farmer-beneficiaries. To say that the Sumilao farmers
who own land sizes far less than what is provided by law are no longer
qualified beneficiaries is to violate the very spirit of the agrarian
b. The other group that joined the Sumilao march is the San
Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) and NOBODY IN THIS
ORGANIZATION OWN ANY PARCEL OF LAND.
2) Tenancy is NOT a requirement to become a beneficiary under
CARP. R.A. 6657 provides: "The lands covered by the CARP shall be
distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same
barangay, or in the absence thereof, landless residents of the same
municipality in the following order of priority: agricultural lessees
and share tenants, regular farmworkers, seasonal farmworkers, other
farmworkers, actual tillers or occupants of public lands, collectives
or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and others directly
working on the land.
a. Most of these farmers were already screened and named in the
title/CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) that means they were
already deemed rightful beneficiaries under the agrarian reform
program in general and in the 144 hectares in particular.
b. Even so, we are still in the pre-coverage stage and who would
become beneficiaries or the inclusion/exclusion process is still
another step after the issuance of the Notice of Coverage. The
Sumilao farmers are very much willing to undergo this process. Their
more than 10 years of faithful and peaceful cooperation with the law
should be a glaring proof of that.
3) CLEAR VIOLATIONS OF SMFI rendering current operations as ILLEGAL:
a. From the Office of the President's Order ( December 18, 2007
): "Apparently, the unilateral development of subject landholdings
into a hog farm by SMFI is NOT one of the purposes for which the
conversion order has been issued. This clearly deviates from and
constitutes a VIOLATION of the conversion order issued to the
b. SMFI claims they made consultations but the resolution
referred to by San Miguel Foods Incorporated was a bogus resolution.
No such barangay council session favourably endorsing the piggery
project happened. Assuming without conceding that the Sangguniang
Barangay unanimously approved and endorsed the project, it cannot be
denied that it remains to be in violation of the law because Local
Government Units have NO POWER OF CONVERSION under the law as that
prerogative solely belongs to the Department of Agrarian Reform.
4) 144-hectare land is CARPable:
a. Sec 4 of RA 6657 provides that "The Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and
commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as
provided in proclamation no. 131 and Executive Order no. 229,
including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.
b. The area is considered prime agricultural land that is
traversed by an irrigation facility. (A basis for the Order denying
the conversion from agricultural to agro-industrial issued by DAR
Secretary Ernesto Garilao on Nov. 14, 1994).
c. 144-hectare land is adjacent to the constantly quoted Carlos
Estate that was already CARPed. In fact, the 2 sections of the one
big CARPable land are just divided by barbed wires.
5) 144-hectare land is Higaonons' ANCESTRAL LAND
a. The forefathers of the Higaonon Indigenous Cultural
Communities led by tribal leaders Apo Manuagay Anlicao and Apo
Mangganiahon were the early settlers.
b. The land was considered "balaang yuta" for the Higaonons, at
the same time, the seat of the government for the tribal leaders where
the traditional "pamuhat" and "paghusay" were conducted.
6) The Sumilao farmers are the LEGAL and MORAL OWNERS of the 144
a. This is the first and foremost reality that should not be
evaded by stating availability of other idle government lands. The
144-hectare land is their holy and ancestral land being Higaonons.
Why should they be given other lands when they are the rightful owners
of the 144-hectare land?
b. If SMFI knows that there are other lands available, why did it
have to displace indigenous peoples who are qualified to claim the 144
hectares of land?
7) Strong support from CREDIBLE, INTELLIGENT, EXPERIENCED,
AUTHORITATIVE and HIGHLY RESPECTED individuals and institutions who
also studied the case:
a. Former DAR Secretaries and Undersecretaries. Sec. Abad even
said that "DAR should always stand beside the farmers. In the case
of Sumilao, the facts are very clear." (PDI, 12/08/07 )
b. Legal luminaries, various lawyers' groups and law schools.
Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ said "The welfare of the
underprivileged need not be achieved the big business way. Let the
little people decide what is best for themselves and for their dignity
as human beings – especially since they have the law on their side! "
c. Church Authorities, several Bishops, Dioceses, religious
organizations including Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, Catholic
Educational Association of the Philippines, Association of Major
Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and countless others.
Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales emphasized the higher moral principle that
called for kindness, love, sympathy and compassion for the poor. (PDI,
8) SMFI Legal Counsel is DAR's former Assistant Secretary for
Legal Affairs who knows too well that the 144-hectare land is
CARPable, that the Sumilao farmers are qualified beneficiaries and
that the Supreme Court's approval of the conversion is subject to
conditions. Furthermore, one may also simply look at the following
documents to see the truth:
a. Tax declaration clearly stating the land is AGRICULTURAL;
b. History of the title;
c. Deed of Sale .
As regards development, The Church through the Vatican's Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace issued the official document last month
(November 23, 2007) entitled "Towards a Better Distribution of Land:
The Challenge of Agrarian Reform." Here are some salient points:
o Many developing countries have sought to modernize their
economies as quickly as possible by basing themselves for the most
part on the often unjustified belief that rapid industrialization can
bring about an improvement in general economic well-being, even if
agriculture suffers in the process.
o Imbalances in the division of land ownership and the
policies giving rise to and sustaining them are the source of serious
obstacles to economic development. Such imbalances and policies can
have economic consequences which affect the majority of the population.
o Agrarian reform is one of the most urgent reforms and
cannot be delayed. In many situations, radical and urgent changes
are therefore needed in order to restore to agriculture – and to rural
people – their just value as the basis for a healthy economy, within
the social community's development as a whole.
Furthermore, Economists from Ateneo de Manila University stated that
"In economic development, it is widely recognized that effective land
reform is a sine qua non of agricultural change and rapid economic
growth. Countries that have undertaken effective land reform not only
have had more robust agricultural growth and productivity, they also
have enjoyed a better distribution of income and lower rates of poverty. "
The effect on growth and development will be much greater if CARP was
implemented more decisively.
We end with SALFA President Napoleon Merida, Jr.'s sentiments:
"The very point of our 1,700 kilometer walk was to make our rights of
the land very compelling and difficult to ignore. We chose a very
peaceful way of asserting our rights even if it meant a big sacrifice
for us. We succeeded in gaining a recognition of our rightful claim
over the land and the injustices that we have endured over the last
decade. For once, the public, the Church and even the Office of the
President have seen our side and have recognized that the law is on
our side. Now, through their expensive full-page ad SMFI is trying to
paint a picture of itself as the savior of the farmers of Bukidnon and
that we have no right over our land. What is the price of justice
then? Is it worth P2.4B in investments? "