Monday, December 3, 2007

Sumilao Farmers 'Walk for Justice'

Norberto Quisumbing, owner of Norkis had the Mapalad farmers land registered under a new title and sold it to San Miguel Foods Inc. in February 2002.

To expose this injustice committed by the Quisumbings, 54 farmers from Sumilao, walking for 60 days, from Bukidnon to Manila, on October 10 to December 10, covering 1,700 kilometers, to ask Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to distribute their ancestral lands to them under the agrarian reform program...

They have braved fatigue, heat, storm. They have endured being away from home, being in uncertain places, with uncertain outcomes. Most of all, they have suffered the callousness of people who took away their land and refuse to give them what is rightfully theirs. They have nothing but the solidarity and goodness of people, and the hope that, in the end, truth and social justice will prevail.

Please read their story below and let us support them in their struggle!

Sumilao farmers now on Manila leg of 'Walk for Justice'
The Philippine Star

Farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon are now on the Manila leg of their 60-
day, 1,700-kilometer "Walk for Justice" and may reach the metropolis
earlier than scheduled.

As of Sunday afternoon, the farmers were in San Pedro, Laguna. They
will begin their journey to Manila this morning, passing through the
Alabang-Parañaque-Coastal Road, on to the Senate and then Ayala Avenue
in Makati City.

The Higaonon farmers from Sumilao town, as earlier planned, are to
arrive in Manila on Dec. 10 in time for the commemoration of
International Human Rights Day.

In Manila, the farmers plan to go to the Department of Agrarian
Reform's central office in Quezon City and Malacañang where they hope
to have a dialogue with President Arroyo.

But as the farmers continued their protest-march, even defying the
scorching heat of the sun and threats posed by typhoons just to
dramatize their 10-year-old demand for the government to give them
back the land they claim as theirs, they scored a "victory" through a
resolution issued by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita remanding the
case to the DAR.

Now, the farmers are pinning their hopes on Agrarian Reform Secretary
Nasser Pangandaman.

According to the Socrates Banzuela, coordinator of the Lakaw Sumilao
network, the farmers are hoping that Pangandaman would finally heed
their demand for him to issue a cease-and-desist order against what
they claimed to be the "illegal conversion" of the contested 144-
hectare property in Sumilao, Bukidnon, especially in the wake of
Ermita's resolution.

"The secretary said he will review the Sumilao case and visit the
contested area soon. We expect him to make a decision before the
marchers arrive in Manila since he has an express order from
Malacañang to do so," said Banzuela, referring to the results of
Thursday's dialogue between the farmers and Pangandaman.

The DAR chief reportedly said during the dialogue that the issuance of
a cease-and-desist order at this point is a great possibility.

The farmers want the DAR to stop the development of a hog farm on the
disputed agricultural land in San Vicente, Sumilao town that was
formerly owned by Norberto Quisumbing.

At least 165 farmers are petitioning for the redistribution of the
property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The property was approved for conversion to agro-industrial use in
1996 through an order issued by then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres.

The Supreme Court upheld Torres' decision in 1999, resulting in the
cancellation of the certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) of the
165 farmer-beneficiaries belonging to the group called Mapalad.

The DAR gave the collective CLOA to the farmer-beneficiaries in 1995.

However, the farmers said the landowner did not comply with the terms
of the conversion order, which included implementing a five-year agro-
industrial development plan.

Instead, Quisumbing had the land registered under a new title and sold
it to San Miguel Foods Inc. in February 2002.

The farmers filed a petition before the DAR in 2004 for cancellation
of the conversion order on account of the landowner's violation, but
Pangan-daman in 2006 denied the petition, saying he lacked
jurisdiction and that "the power is lodged with the office (which)
issued the (conversion) order."

The farmers appealed to the Office of the President, which initially
upheld Pangandaman's decision, saying the farmer-petitioners lacked
legal standing.

But the farmers filed a motion for reconsideration with the Office of
the President, which last Nov. 16, through a resolution signed by
Ermita, remanded the Sumilao case to the DAR.

The resolution said the DAR is in "a better position to assess and
evaluate the credibility of the contending parties and the validity of
their respective evidence."

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